Chapter 4 : Bawled Out
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Sergeant Michael Tapping of Her Majesty’s Armed Services opened the door to find a tall woman in a blouse and kilt with a businesslike expression on her face on the doorstep. She had dark hair and green eyes, and seemed to be middle-aged.
“Good morning.”, she said. “I am Professor Minerva McGonagall, deputy headmistress of Hogwarts School. May I presume that you are Mr. Tapping, father of Samantha Bronwyn Tapping?”
“That’s Sergeant Tapping, ma’am.” He eyed her with slight irritation. The sergeant was in his mid-thirties, and had seen active service in a number of trouble-spots at the end of the seventies and across the first part of the eighties. These days he oversaw part of the process of breaking in new recruits, who had a similar tendency to forget rank, at least at first. His wife joked that his once crimson hair had survived action but was rapidly being subdued by peace.
“My apologies, sergeant. Our information is mostly regarding your daughter, and did not refer to your rank. May I come in, please?”
“Alright then.” He stepped back, opening the door for her to come through. He closed it behind her once she was in. “The sitting room’s this way. This is the ‘your daughter is in fact a girl with unusual abilities and we would like to offer her a place at our school’ speech, isn’t it, ma’am?”
The deputy headmistress blinked in surprise as she sat down.
“Err, indeed yes. Have you had previous contact with the magical world?”
“Samantha’s godfather knows someone in special ops who put us in contact with a policeman – or ‘auror’ as I believe you call them – a year or so ago. Fellow by the name of Alastor Moody. Good thing. We were starting to get worried about our daughter. He pops by every couple of months.”
“Moody?” the deputy headmistress frowned. “Glass eye, watchword is ‘constant vigilance’?”
“That’s him, ma’am.”
“Oh, well. You already know something about our world then, and I don’t have to do the demonstration I give to some families. What’s he said about Hogwarts?”
“Only that you’re a boarding school for witches and wizards in Scotland and that someone would likely be dropping by with a letter at some point. He said it was no business of his to try to do the job for whomever showed up, ma’am.”
The woman puckered her lips, thoughtfully.
“Well I have here a letter conditionally accepting your daughter into our school.” The deputy headmistress produced an envelope from a pocket and put it on a coffee table. “If I could hand it over to her?” she looked at Sergeant Tapping expectantly.
“She’s out down the shops at the moment, ma’am.” he replied. “In the meantime, as her father, I have some questions for you about your institution. Specifically: What subjects do pupils learn, what qualifications do pupils gain, and how safe an environment is your school?”
“Well we teach a broad curriculum of magical subjects including astronomy, potions, transfiguration, charms, divination, and defence against the dark arts. Pupils sit OWL exams in their fifth year and NEWT exams in their seventh year, which would be our equivalent of O and A-levels. We are the safest place in wizarding Britain, and one of the greatest wizards in the world, Albus Dumbledore, is our headmaster. In the magical world’s counterpart to your last major European war, he defeated the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald.”
“I thought there was a war amongst witches and wizards more recently than that, ma’am?” Sergeant Tapping frowned. “Here in Britain in the seventies?”
“Oh, yes. Of course, I suppose Moody would have mentioned that. Well, Albus was headmaster of Hogwarts by then, so was busy with school business, but he did play an active part in the resistance against the dark wizards. He liaised with the ministry and aurors, and helped organise and coordinate a group of volunteer witches and wizards who were fighting that war’s dark wizard and his minions.”
Sergeant Tapping’s frown deepened, but he forbade from commenting that it sounded to him as if Dumbledore had been a bit of a busybody then, with his fingers in several pies instead of just focussing on one area of concern. He concentrated instead on his own major area of concern.
“So: defence against the dark arts. That’s self-protection against magical attacks by evil wizards, right?”
“Broadly speaking, yes. The lessons assist in protecting oneself in any witch or wizard duel, and against unpleasant creatures such as boggarts and dementors.”
The sergeant nodded.
“What teacher would Samantha have for it if she attends your school next year, and what are his or her qualifications and experience?”
“Err.” the deputy-headmistress frowned. “We have a high turnover rate in defence against the dark arts staff, and generally speaking they don’t last past the end of the academic year. It’s not clear yet who our teacher will be for the next academic year. We’re still reviewing candidates.”
“What? The most important subject you teach, and you can’t hold down a teacher for more than twelve months?” Sergeant Tapping’s disgust at this news was evident. “I thought Hogwarts was supposedly ‘the safest place in wizarding Britain’? Do all your teachers only last twelve months or less?”
“No, we only seem to have a problem with the Defence position.” the deputy headmistress winced. “It isn’t that teaching or learning the subject is in and of itself dangerous but it appears that there are…”
“You’re witches and wizards. Don’t give me ‘extenuating circumstances’, ma’am.” the sergeant was having difficulty controlling his rising anger. All too many new recruits giving pathetic excuses about girlfriends or pets dying or having a cold were flashing before his eyes. “Is the bloody position cursed, or something?”
“You’ve got supposedly one of the greatest wizards in the world as your headmaster, but he can’t do anything about a cursed position on his staff – one regarding the most important subject on the whole curriculum? What the hell kind of fool do you take me for, ma’am?” The sergeant was actually shouting now. He took the envelope off the table and ripped it into four and shoved it back at the deputy headmistress. “I will NOT trust the safety and life of my daughter to an institution like THAT. YOU CAN TAKE YOUR LETTER AND GET OUT BEFORE I THROW YOU OUT, WITCH OR NOT!” The last was delivered at parade ground volume.
The deputy headmistress produced a wand, tapped the envelope, and it repaired itself.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Tapping, your daughter has to receive the letter and decline it herself. There are rules. Letters will keep coming otherwise.” She put it back on the table.
“Well I shall give it to her, and tell her just how unsafe she will be at your madhouse, so she can decline it herself. And it’s SERGEANT Tapping, ma’am.”
Minerva McGonagall departed the Tapping residence with the usual inward wince of recent years. Military families of muggleborns tended to be predictable. They almost always asked about fighting, and the subject of Defence Against the Dark Arts came up, and the situation regarding the continuous turnover of staff in that position got mentioned. At which point the conclusion was practically forgone. Admittedly that was one of the loudest bawling-outs she’d had from a military person for some time. Probably because his daughter hadn’t been present, so he had had no need to restrain himself, in front of her. She’d told Albus time and again that the ongoing Defence position situation didn’t look very good with such families, and he usually sighed and said he was sure everything turned out for the best in the end.
Still, since Alastor Moody knew this family personally, maybe he’d be able to give the Tappings sufficient basic directions that their daughter didn’t otherwise end up being perceived as a ‘problem’ by the Ministry, the way that such military families occasionally did…
I had hoped to have this one out earlier, but I have had repeated formatting problems.
Regarding Sergeant Tapping. his daughter's godfather is also in the army and is involved with dealing with things such as kelpies (and other stuff) that pos a danger to muggles which Ministry of Magic officials miss; that’s how (by a roundabout route) Alastor Moody came to hear about Samantha, and her accidental magic, and why he occasionally drops by. Sergeant Tapping is protective of Samantha as she's the only surviving child he and his wife have. Two boys both died in infancy due to an inherited genetic condition.
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