Chapter 5 : A Bit of Advice (Both Welcome and Otherwise)
| ||Rating: Mature||Chapter Reviews: 1|
Background: Font color:
"Mmph?" she asked no one in particular. Nox perked up her ears at the sound of her voice, then rolled over. A warm bath helped to clear the fog from her brain, but the headache remained on the periphery, daring her to make any sudden movement. She dressed in the first tunic, pants and outer robe that she grabbed, not noticing that she'd clad herself in three different shades of purple.
She would have to hurry if she was going to take Nox outside and back before the students descended on the hall for breakfast. Her head began to pound, apparently from walking upright. Patience already worn thin by the time Nox had chosen an appropriate bush to pee on; she pretended she didn't see Snape walking up from the dungeon as she herded the dog towards the main stairs. She didn't have the time or self confidence to deal with him at the moment. He didn't acknowledge the slight, but his eyes followed as she ran up the stairs two at a time, robe flapping behind her.
Ten minutes later, her head throbbing, she hunched over a plate of dry toast and clutched an empty mug.
"Need coffee," she mumbled, a full octave below her regular speaking voice. After a brief pause, the mug filled with a foul brown liquid. She took a whiff and shuddered at the stale, burnt smell. "No. Do not want." She stared crossly at the drink, willing it to change into the fresh Turkish brew she'd been accustomed to, to no avail.
"You'll probably need to supply your own beans if you want fresh coffee," said Charity.
Her shoulders slumping, Clio gave in and began sipping at the coffee. She managed to down a piece of dry toast with it by the time breakfast was over. The churning in her guts wasn't just a result of the previous night’s revelries, but also included a hefty dose of anxiety for her first day with the students. Luckily, she didn't have class until second period, so she would at least have some time after breakfast to skim through her notes, gather her scattered brain cells and (hopefully) recover from the alcohol-fueled portion of her stomach upset.
She let the flood of students cascade out of the hall and on to their morning classes before picking herself up and slumping off to the staffroom. She was halfway there before she realized that she'd left her messenger bag with all her notes behind at the table, and had just turned to go back when Lupin came loping up with it, the effects of his silvery eyes and shy smile immediately trumping the state of his tatty brown robes.
"You left this," he said, "but you've obviously realized that by now."
"Yeah thanks, sorry for the trouble." Clio smiled back at him, thankful that her voice had returned to its normal range, so that she no longer sounded like a fog horn.
"No trouble," he said, then dashed off toward the stairs.
Except for Binns hovering by the windows, the staffroom was blessedly empty. Clio settled into a squashy armchair, took out her notes and started reviewing her lecture for the day. Her afternoon class was going to be a small group of 6th years beginning study for their NEWTs, and since they'd all passed their OWLs with E or O she knew where they were starting from. The 3rd years she'd be teaching would also be relatively straight forward, since (unless they were nerds like her who'd studied runes at home) they would all be completely new to the subject. It was the 4th and 5th years that she was the most anxious about. She would be starting out with double session of 4th years this morning, and as she pored over her lesson plans she only became more anxious, not less. Could this lesson be too easy, or too advanced?
Binns began talking to her almost as soon as she entered the room. At first she paid him no attention, absentmindedly saying, "Hmm," or, "I see," every time she sensed that he was waiting for some kind of response from her before continuing. At some point he became interested in what she was doing, because she felt a sudden chill on her arm as he floated over her shoulder, staring down at the papers on her lap. She made an effort not to flinch away.
"There isn't much lecture to your lecture," he was saying now. "What are all these questions for?"
"Hmm? Oh, those are discussion questions."
"Discussion?” Binns seemed perplexed. “You don't discuss things with your students, you tell them what you want them to know and they write it down."
"Oh, is that how you teach history?"
"Of course. That's how everything should be taught."
"I see," she said, shifting uncomfortably in her seat. There was a soft click at the door, and when Clio looked up she saw Professor Trelawney slink into the room, making a beeline for the wardrobe.
"Ahh, Sybill,” said Binns, “I was just enlightening young Professor Callimachus here on the proper way to lead a class. Perhaps you have some tips for her?"
"Oh… Ah, yes, I foresee a disaster in your classroom today," she said wispily, retrieving a filmy shawl and wrapping it around herself dramatically before flouncing out.
Clio sighed heavily, gathering up her notes. She might as well get comfortable in her classroom. At least there she wouldn't be disturbed.
The room was empty and quiet for the time being, and just as she had left it. Except… something was off. The windows were closed. Her nose wrinkled; did she smell fresh paint? The windows had been painted again.
"Son of a bitch!" She ran to the first window and attempted to open it. It was painted shut. "Fuck! Who did this?"
Deranged cackling caught her attention from the other side of the room. She turned in time to see Peeves shoot across the classroom to the door, holding a paint can and wet brush. A dotted line of paint dripped behind him.
"Fuck you, Peeves!" she screamed. The poltergeist continued his cackling, then shot straight through the door. The paint can crashed against it and then splattered on the floor. She opened the door just to hurl a few more choice four-letter words at him, then spent the next half hour charming the paint off of the floor and reopening the windows. Fortunately, the paint was fresh, making raising the windows less of a hassle than the first time.
The one good thing about Peeves’ meddling was that it helped to burn off the remaining queasiness in her belly. She had time for one last cursory glance at her notes before stowing them inside the podium. Then she retrieved her projector from a pocket in her tunic and, as she heard voices echoing down the hall, prepared it for a bit of show and tell. Her headache was also finally beginning to subside, and by the time the 4th years began filing in she had begun to feel somewhat human.
Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs were paired together for this first lesson, and she'd decided to tailor the lesson to their house strengths. Most of them were too wrapped up in comparing their summers to pay her any attention as they entered and found their seats. That is, until they looked up and noticed the scene spread out in the air for them. Clio had used a series of photographs to recreate her favorite room at the Runic Archives. She had their full attention when she began to speak.
"I'm Professor Callimachus. If that's too many syllables for you, then you can call me Professor Calli. I've lived in four different countries over the past 23 years so, yes, I have a funny accent,” she said. There were a few chuckles. “I may also use some terms that sound strange to you, so if you don't get anything then just ask." She took attendance using her brand new ledger book (silently repeating a memory charm to help her place names with faces) then set it aside.
"Can anyone tell me where we are right now, aside from 'the ancient runes classroom'?" A few hands shot up before she'd reached the last part of her question. The hands all lowered, with more chuckles, when she got to the end.
"It's okay, you can guess. Look for clues and shout out your suggestions. Work together." The students all looked at each other uncertainly for a moment, clearly unused to this type of group activity. She waited patiently and, little by little, they started to open up and volunteer ideas.
"It looks like a museum."
"It's full of stones. They're all covered in runes."
"Look, there's a window there, and outside it's snowy."
"The sky outside the window is dark, but the clock on the wall says it's the middle of the day."
Within just a few minutes they had come to the correct answer. Clio rewarded them by taking them on a tour of her favorite pieces within the archives. The students listened with rapt attention as she told the histories of each stone, and the spells inscribed on them. Then she recalled the projector to her pocket, and they were once more in the classroom.
"Now that I've done my little show and tell, why don't you tell me about what you've learned in this class so far." Each and every one of their answers featured the word "reading." It was just as Clio had expected: they'd been learning to read runes, but that was it.
"Decoding runes and rune-marked artifacts takes exactly the same skills as you used a few minutes ago to figure out where we were. It's not just 'reading,' although reading is an important part of it. It's solving puzzles. Once you learn to decode runes, you can also learn to work magic with them. The stones I showed you all carry powerful and ancient magic."
A hand shot up from the crowd. "Yes, Mr. Belby."
"What kind of magic can you do with runes?"
She smiled, "Protective spells, especially with talismans and amulets. Some witches and wizards use runes to forecast the future, but I've always found that a bit iffy. Still, some swear by it. I made this projector," she said, retrieving the box from her pocket and holding it up for everyone to see. "There are runes inscribed all along the edges," she passed her wand over the box and the runes glowed bright gold. She passed her wand over the box again and the runes faded.
"You made that?" someone asked.
"Don't sound so skeptical," she answered, getting another laugh. "I made it while I was studying for my NEWTS." A couple of students sighed, apparently already anticipating making their own.
"If any of you are interested in how the projector works, then you should consider joining the photography club. The first meeting won't be until next week, but the lab will be open for a few hours each day this week for anyone who's interested in doing some developing. Anyway, this year you'll make some basic talismans in class. And have you made a rune set?"
They shook their heads no. "That'll be the first thing we make, then."
She glanced at her watch, "We've got a few items of housecleaning to go over now," the students all looked confused, and then snickered when they realized she meant to go over the grading rubric and her expectations for them.
At the end of class, she announced that they would have homework. There were a few groans but no eye rolls, at least. "I want you to bring me an object from the castle that is inscribed with runes. If it's too big to bring to class then you can take a picture of it, or make a charcoal rubbing of it. It can't simply be a page from a book of runes, though, and it has to be unique. I don't want to see 5 people all bringing in a rubbing of the same column. Don't try to fool me, either, because I will not be fooled. Believe me, I have my ways," she smiled as she said this. "Bring your object, and be ready to present to the class where you got it, what it does, and what the symbols mean."
With that, her first class was dismissed. Once they had all filed out, she heaved a great sigh. That hadn't been half bad. She was careful to lock the door behind her when she left for lunch.
She was especially hungry at lunch after hardly eating anything at breakfast, but also so excited to talk with Charity and Hagrid over their respective first halves of the first day that she barely remembered to eat. She and Charity both laughed over Professor Trelawney's dire prediction. Hagrid's first lesson with the hippogriffs had gone well, but he was anxious over the afternoon lesson with the Gryffindor and Slytherin third years. It was becoming clear to Clio that the Gryffindor trio of Potter, Weasley and Granger were his favorite students at the school, and he wanted desperately for them to like his class.
"It's your class, Hagrid." Charity kept saying. "You're the teacher. You're in charge. You're not there to be their friend when class is in session."
"I know, I know," Hagrid answered. Clio doubted that her words were sinking in. Clio told Charity about how she'd had the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws collaborate together. "What about when I have the Slytherins and Gryffindors together? Do you think I should play more to their competitive sides, or should I try and get them to collaborate, too?"
Charity stared into space, contemplatively, for a few moments before responding. "It's your class, Clio, you're in charge."
Smiling, Clio took a mock swing at her head. "Yeah, yeah. Oh, and why didn't you tell me that I'm dressed like Professor Plum?"
"What? You look fine."
"I look like I did it in the study with the candlestick."
The crowd in the great hall was beginning to thin by this time. Clio and the other teachers with afternoon classes began to filter out behind the students. Lupin passed by on his way to his office.
"I heard Peeves made a nuisance of himself in your classroom this morning," he said, smiling bashfully, "He's been singing about it up and down the second floor corridors."
"About how he painted my windows shut?"
"You know, I never knew those windows could open. They were always shut when I was a student myself. Smelled like dungbombs in there," he said lightly.
"Yeah, it smelled like dungbombs until I forced the windows open a few days ago,” she said with a scowl. “That reminds me, I need to lay some security runes on the door."
"Good luck," he said, frowning slightly, as he hurriedly turned down the corridor to his office.
Clio's afternoon class met her in the hall outside her classroom that day, where she was burning shield runes into the door. The tip of her wand glowed white hot, scorching a complex protective pattern into the wood. Her 6th-years watched, wide-eyed, as the runes smoked for a few seconds, then faded away. Clio chanted as she worked, not acknowledging her students until she was done. When at last she turned and welcomed them, they stared at her in awe. No teacher had ever vandalized school property like that, to their recollection.
"Welcome to the study of ancient runes," she said with a smile. "The runes I've just marked on the door are designed to keep out poltergeists and other restless spirits." She had their complete attention from the get-go.
Clio spent a couple of hours in the photo lab before dinner. Even though she'd posted open lab hours, she had expected to spend the time alone. Apparently word had spread, because there were already a couple of students waiting for her when she arrived. More streamed in later, all wanting to see how the projector worked and learn how to mix the developing potions. She turned on her music box for them, and they ended up listening to the Weird Sisters as they worked. There was no sign of her sullen neighbor when she left for dinner.
After starting off so low, it was with remarkably high spirits that Clio strutted into the great hall that night, eager to exchange first-day stories with Hagrid. Then she saw him, shoulders slumped, sagging onto the table, face buried in his hands. Charity stood dwarfed beside him, a hand on his shoulder, golden hair falling over his shaggy head as she tried to console him.
"What's happened?" Clio whispered.
Charity sighed, shaking her head.
Hagrid looked up then, eyes so red and swollen that she could barely see his pupils. "It was a disaster," he said. "Dumbledore'll sack me for sure."
"It couldn't have been that bad!" Clio said.
"He didn't even fire Gilderoy Lockhart on the first day," Charity muttered.
"It was. Buckbeak injured a student."
"Buckbeak? He was the gentle one!" Clio gasped. "How did it happen?"
"It was Draco Malfoy, he came up too quick, without bowin'. Buckbeak was just frightened an’ charged him."
"Malfoy! The little prick," Charity seethed.
"Which one is Malfoy?" Clio asked, scanning the hall.
"He's still in the hospital wing," Hagrid said miserably.
"He's a third-year Slytherin. Pale and blonde and pure-blood," Charity hissed. "His father is on the Hogwarts Board of Governors and he's tried to ban several books from the library for being pro-Muggle. You can't miss him, he's like Snape's little pet."
Clio recoiled in disgust, then said to Hagrid, "You told him to bow, right?"
"Course I did! Didn' matter though."
"Dumbledore's not going to fire you if he didn't follow your directions. It's his fault!" Clio was fuming now.
Hagrid sobbed in response.
"Hey, this should cheer you up, Hagrid," Charity said with forced optimism, pulling a song book from her robes. "You were right, it's the oak wand that goes with the fairy princess and she did come first!"
Hagrid wasn't fired. He did, however, lose all the joy that he'd derived from teaching. After the lesson with the hippogriffs, he abandoned his lesson plans on other interesting creatures like the thestrals. Instead, he focused exclusively on flobberworms, arguably the safest and most boring creatures at the school. Any other animal Clio suggested was shot down for one reason or another. Owls might bite, some students may be allergic to kneazles and unicorns were too shy to coax out of the forest.
Clio's classes continued to go well and her confidence grew throughout the week. Peeves was stymied by the runes on her door, but would sometimes float just outside to blow raspberries and scream, "Potty mouth! Potty mouth!" at her as she entered or exited. The students who showed up for the photography club began bringing in their own music to share. Snape showed up occasionally after the students had left, just to critique her musical tastes. Ironically, she found his visits more amusing than unpleasant. They distracted her from thinking about her family, something she often did whenever she found herself alone. She'd sent a terse note about the Hogwarts letters to her sister, and waited anxiously for her reply.
She was glad that she'd arrived at the school with a little time before the beginning of term to get acquainted with the myriad corridors, shifting staircases, and hidden shortcuts throughout the castle. Before the first week of classes was up, she was running back and forth, up and down the stairs between her office, classroom, photo lab, staffroom and great hall as if she'd been doing it for years. She even attempted to assist lost students in finding their classes, although the shifting staircases made giving directions somewhat difficult. After accidentally directing a few students in a great circle, she gave up and began telling anyone who asked that they'd have to work it out for themselves.
Nox quickly became popular with the students who encountered her during her walks, even though she had a tendency to chase after cats, rats and other pets. One day the dog came prancing up to Clio with a large yellowish toad in her mouth. Clio had to pry her jaws open to get the poor creature away from her, and was about to set it free outside when she heard a plaintive voice moving towards her along the corridor.
She looked up and around, and spotted a chubby, round-faced boy with dirty blond hair walking the corridor with bent waist, searching for something on the floor. Nox, meanwhile, wagged her tail and eyed the toad like it was a chew toy.
She glanced down at the slobbery thing squatting on her palm, "Is this Trevor?" she asked, stepping toward the boy and holding out the toad.
"Yes, ma'am," he said, smiling. She handed him the toad, a long string of dog drool stretching out from his back legs to her hand as she did.
"Please don't call me ma'am," she said with a frown, wiping her hand off on her pants. "’Ma'am’ is to be reserved for old ladies, only."
His eyes widened, "Yes, professor." She nodded and walked off, not realizing that she had just scared poor Neville Longbottom. More than two years would pass before he spoke to her again.
It wasn't until the middle of that first week that, looking for texts for her students to begin translating, Clio found a need to borrow a few books from the library. She'd only walked through it briefly before, admiring the tall gothic windows and rows upon rows of handsome oak bookcases. It turned out that the books of ancient rune poems she wanted were all in the restricted section, behind a velvet rope. She wanted to ask Madam Pince why they were kept there, but one stern glare over the top of the librarian's cat's eye reading glasses changed her mind.
Remembering Charity's advice about check out, she bypassed the librarian's desk and casually made her way through the stacks, feigning interest in Hogwarts: A History and getting caught up in a historical atlas for real before stepping nonchalantly over the barrier that separated the restricted books from the main collection. The runes stamped on their leather-bound spines made them easy to find, even with all the dust coating the shelf. She flipped through the first one, which looked like it hadn't been cracked open in years. A bit of parchment dropped into her hand. The due date was scribbled on it in tight, spidery scrawl.
May 8, 1976
She wondered whether anyone had even looked at it since then. Glancing to her left and right to make sure no one was watching, she waved her wand over the book to determine what hexes had been placed on it. She counted at least 14. Shaking her head, she began methodically reciting the counterhexes, first loosening them and then lifting them away with her wand like wisps of colored smoke. She finished the first book, and with another furtive glance, slid it into her messenger bag.
The second book was just as heavily guarded, as was the third. Emboldened that lightning had not struck her down after nicking the first two books, she grew careless and ceased her vigilant checking for snooping busybodies. She was lifting the eighth hex from the final book when she heard a noise like someone clearing their throat. Startled by the sound, she hastily brushed the violet-colored smoke away, pretending to be merely dusting the cover. Then she turned to face whoever was coming, affixing an innocent expression to her face.
It was Lupin, looking better fed and less haunted than she remembered. He smiled conspiratorially at her before reaching up to one of the higher shelves to retrieve a book. He seemed to know exactly where the one he wanted would be without searching for it, as if he'd retrieved it many times before.
"Don't mind me, I won't tell Madam Pince," he whispered, paging through the book in his hands.
"Tell her what?" Clio asked, a sly smile of her own making an appearance.
He laughed softly. "You are allowed to check it out, you know," he continued.
"I may want to keep it longer than is allowed," she answered.
"Well, then, I doubt anyone will miss it," he replied.
"You think?" she asked, blowing a thick cloud of dust from the top edge, then continuing with her counterhexes. "How many do you think need to be missing from one spot before she notices?"
"Hmm," he said, as if mulling over how best to answer. He walked closer, taking a look at the gap on the shelf that her three books had occupied. "Well, some people have found it useful to take books from another section and fill in the holes. Like this," he said, pulling a couple of books from his robes and sliding them onto the shelf with the books on runes. He pushed them into the shadows of the surrounding books, obscuring the titles and concealing the fact that they didn't belong.
She grinned. "That's a useful trick. One you've obviously never used yourself, I presume."
"Oh no, I've only heard of other people doing it," he said lightly.
She finished counterhexing the book and slipped it into her bag. "There are so many hexes on these books, it's almost as if Madam Pince doesn't want anybody reading them," she muttered.
"She probably considers this one to be too scary," he said, turning the book in his hands to show her a full-color illustration of a Red Cap bludgeoning an unwary victim.
Clio's mouth pulled into it's half-smile, "I think my 10-year old nephew would like that, actually."
"Good, I'm planning to cover them with the first through fourth years."
"Fourth years haven't covered them yet?"
"Unfortunately, no. Their instruction over the past few years has been a bit … spotty to say the least."
"Oh, yeah, Charity mentioned that. The ‘curse,' Quirrell and Lockhart and all," she said. "It doesn't bother you?"
"What, the curse?" He shook his head, looking down at the book in his hands. "I'm not superstitious."
She nodded, then chuckled. "Lockhart. I started reading one of his books once, because a friend wouldn't shut up about it. After two chapters I threw it against the wall."
"Shhhhhhhhh," hissed Madam Pince, standing at the end of the row with her hands planted on her hips. Clio gripped her bag self-consciously, hiding it under her arm as surreptitiously as she could.
"This is a library," Pince rasped, clearly outraged that Clio had broken the unwritten decibel limit. "Remus Lupin, I expect better of you." She said nothing more to Clio, simply looking her up and down with a critical eye before stalking off.
Clio turned to him with radiant eyes, stifling laughter. "Sorry if I've got you in trouble."
"It wouldn't be the first time someone else has got me in trouble," he murmured, smiling wistfully as he returned his book back to the same spot he'd gotten it from. "I'll just have to come back for that later."
Clio made a mental note of the book's exact location, thinking that she might come back later and steal it for him herself. She strode past the librarian's desk, hands clasped behind her back, trying to look as innocent as possible while waiting for alarm bells to go off. Lupin fell in step behind her, nodding at Madam Pince as he passed. She glared at both of them until they were clear of the door. Clio slowly expelled the lungful of air she'd been holding for the past 30 seconds, waiting for him to catch up before continuing down the hallway.
"All that for a couple of library books," she said.
"Madam Pince takes her books very seriously."
"I thought librarians were supposed to be helpful. Hey, she was here when you were a student, right?"
"And Filch, too?"
"Oh, I see where you're going with this."
"Is it true?"
"No one knows for sure, other than them, I suppose," he said with a sly smile.
Without really thinking about it, they'd walked to the main stairs. Clio glanced at her watch. There wasn't much point in stopping in her room before dinner.
"Are you heading down?" he asked, as if on cue.
"Yeah, I may as well," she said, beginning her descent at a more leisurely pace than usual.
He adjusted his longer, slower strides to keep pace with her.
"So, what other tricks do you have up your sleeve?" she asked.
"Hmm, I don't know how useful you'd find any of them. I do know that if Peeves is causing mischief, you can usually get rid of him by threatening to fetch the Bloody Baron."
"The Slytherin house ghost?" Clio frowned, she vaguely recalled seeing him float around the hall during the start of term feast.
"He usually hangs around the dungeons. I'm sure you'll run in to him sooner or later down there."
"So far I've just run into Snape. I would advise against playing loud music down there early in the morning."
"Did you know that Snape and I were in the same year?"
"No! Did you know one another?" She chuckled. "Were you friends?"
He grimaced. "No, I can't say that we were."
"I didn't think so. What's up with that?"
He eyed her curiously for a second, "I'm afraid it's an almost entirely one-sided antipathy. So, how are your classes going so far?"
Her eyes narrowed, "I see what you did there. Umm, so far they're going very well. And how about yours?"
He smiled warmly, gray eyes lighting up. "They're going well. I've gotten Dumbledore's approval to bring in some monsters."
"Ooh, like what?" she asked, genuinely curious.
"Red Caps, hinkypunks," he said, watching her reactions as he listed them, "grindylows, kappas and I'd like to find a boggart. I'm sure there's one lurking about the castle somewhere."
"Did you say you're looking for a grindylow?"
"Yes," he answered cautiously.
"I bet I could get one for you from the lake," she said.
"Really?" He looked taken aback at this unexpected offer. "That's right, you're a diver."
"Yes, and I will use any excuse to get into the water."
"Have you caught one before?" He asked, looking slightly dubious.
"Well, not exactly, but I do know where they like to congregate." She recalled the thick masses of lake weeds that they’d retreated to during her dive with Pomona. "It shouldn't be too difficult to sneak up on one."
He measured her up for a moment. "I'll think about it."
They'd reached the staff table by now. Clio turned toward her usual seat by Charity and Hagrid. Meanwhile, Professor Flitwick was waving for Lupin near the middle of the table.
"I'll see you later," he said.
"Yeah," she said, smiling slyly as she sat down.
Clio snuck away from breakfast early a couple of days later and returned to the library. She pocketed the copy of Gilderoy Lockhart's Guide to Household Pests that she found in the small out-of-the-way shelf devoted to his works on her way back to the restricted section. She hoped that she wasn't too late, and smiled when she found The International Catalog of Dark Creatures right where he'd left it.
To avoid suspicion after making the switch, she grabbed another book at random from one of the tables and walked up to the desk with it to check out. Madam Pince glanced at the title and then up at her, one eyebrow migrating skyward and lips pinching together more tightly than Clio thought was humanly possible as she handed it back. She waited until she was out in the hallway before looking at the cover herself and groaning: Love Spells: Time Tested Methods for Charming the Heart of Mr. Right. She shoved the book down into the deepest recesses of her bag.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Other Similar Stories
The Truth Ab...