Chapter 45 : The Defense Professor's Secret
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The Defense Professor's Secret
A few days after Charles' clandestine visit to Minerva in her office, Lily and Alice were doing homework together, it was Charms, and since Lily was very very good in that subject it didn't take her long to write her two feet of parchment on Shield and Disarming Charms and afterwards, bored, she began doodling on a spare piece of parchment, drawing little hearts with arrows through them and putting her initials and Severus' beneath hers inside them. She wasn't really paying attention to what she was doing, but Alice happened to glance over and see what she was doing, and saw.
"Lily!" she gasped when she saw the hearts and initials. "Are you . . . sweet on Sev?"
Lily looked up at her best friend, blushing slightly. She couldn't deny the evidence written all over the parchment, nor did she want to. "I . . . umm . . . yeah. I guess so. It's funny, but . . . I've known him almost my whole life and it's only now that I . . . started to think of him as something beside . . .my best friend. Is that . . . weird?"
Alice smirked. "Not by my lights. Sev's cute . . . and he's not full of himself, like Potter and his friends. And I think . . . I think he might even like you back . . . but he's too shy to say it."
Lily's green eyes sparkled. "You really think so?"
Alice nodded. "I do. Not that he's said so, but I can see it in the way he looks at you sometimes."
"How does he look at me?"
"Like you're a priceless potion and he's just discovered you," her friend answered honestly.
"Really?" Lily smiled dreamily. "I've started thinking lately . . . about maybe asking him out . . . or something . . . like when we go to Hogsmeade next time . . . maybe we could . . . uh . . . have some tea at Madam Puddifoot's . . .or do I sound stupid . . .?"
"I don't think it's stupid at all. I think you ought to ask him and see what happens," Alice urged.
"Okay. Then I will . . . next time we're . . . alone together."
Alice grinned. "You have to tell me how it goes. Because if it goes well for you, I might just do the same thing with Frank."
"You like Frank?"
"Yeah. I think he's sweet and cute. He's not a snot like some purebloods."
"Then . . . take your own advice, girlfriend, and ask him out," Lily giggled.
"Maybe I will."
"But right now I need to finish my Transfiguration homework, or else I'll get a zero," Lily reminded her, and bent her head to her parchment again.
The next morning, at breakfast, Lily received a letter from Petunia. She tore it open eagerly, Tuney rarely wrote her at school, so she hoped the news was something good, and not anything bad. She found a single sheet of parchment inside and unfolded it.
I just had to write and tell you about everything that's happened since you went off to school. I started my apprenticeship with Madam Bellefleur at La Couture. She was happy to have such a dedicated and innovation individual as her personal apprentice, she told Mum after I was there three weeks. She's scheduled a trip to Paris so I can learn from all the great designers there and in a week I'll be going there! I'm so excited! Remember when we were kids and we used to talk about traveling around the world and seeing all the sights? Well, now I'll be doing some of that. I can't wait. I'm sure I'll get homesick the first few days, but then I'll probably be too busy to miss mum and dad and our home. And this'll be a great opportunity for me to learn from some of the masters in my field.
Guess what else? I've been writing to Salem Ollivander these past months. Nothing much, just a hello and how've you been. But last weekend he met me at the house and he . . . took me flying on his broom. Just a short flight, like around the block, under some kind of charm he called a Notice-Me-Not or something. But, oh Lily, it was incredible! And he's incredible too! He's so . . . kind and so witty. He makes me laugh and he seems to really enjoy being with me, and when I asked him how come, he said it was because I wasn't like all the other girls he'd known. That I was different . . . and special. He thinks I'm special . . . me, just plain ordinary Petunia Charlotte Evans. How magical is that?
I almost wish I didn't have to leave for Paris soon, because I think I'm going to miss him dreadfully, but . . . I'll still keep in touch with him like usual.
I hope all is well with you and Sev. Tell him I said hi. How are your classes going? Last time you wrote me about your new Defense teacher, Professor Gold. Is he as good as you said you hoped he'd be? Is he cute?
Sorry, I shouldn't be asking you that, but I seem to have cute on my brain.
Anyway, gotta go, I need to study patterns for work tomorrow.
Write back soon!
"What'd she say?" Alice wanted to know.
"Lots of things," Lily replied. Then she told Alice what Petunia had said about her apprenticeship and even about Salem.
"Oh , that's so good to hear," Alice said.
"I think it's terrible," Mary said, sneering at the two other Gryffindors. "Ollivander's from a good wizarding family, he shouldn't be hanging out with Muggle trash."
Lily glared daggers at her. "You shut your trap, MacDonald! My sister is as good as any witch and if anyone's trash, it's you, for eavesdropping on a private conversation and then adding insult to injury with your bigoted opinions. Now shut it and mind your own business, before I hex your tongue to the roof of your mouth."
Mary gasped. "Why, Evans, you ungrateful pig! How dare you threaten me?"
Lily gripped her wand in her fist. "I'll do more than threaten if you insult my sister again. Now shut up!"
Mary subsided, muttering under her breath.
When James and his cronies appeared, she moved over to sit by them, and Lily knew she was probably whining in that nasal way she had about how Lily was such a nasty witch. Lily was determined to ignore her . . . unless she started talking about Petunia . . . then she'd hex her good.
James paid attention to Mary's complaints about Lily with half an ear. He was too busy plotting how to discover what secret Gold was hiding. For he was sure the Defense teacher—a nobody if he'd ever seen one—had some secret he was hiding. He knew for a fact that his last name—Gold—was not one of the Founding Families that formed the cornerstone of wizarding society in Britain. In fact, James wondered if it had been shortened from a longer name—like Goldberg or Goldstein. He suspected that Gold was no pureblood, but probably a Muggleborn or a half-blood at the most, and therefore his ancestry was inferior to James' own. He had overheard Minerva call the professor Bobby, probably short for Robert, a common enough name.
He still hadn't discovered what House the professor was an alumni of, though he suspected very strongly the professor was either a Ravenclaw or a stinking Slytherin, because he was always reading at his desk, like a typical Eagle, but he knew more charms about sneaking and disguises than anyone had a right to, and that meant he was most likely a Serpent. James wondered if he was a secret supporter of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. That would be just like a Slytherin, dark to the core.
Still resentful of the Defense professor for giving him detention for putting that lowly worm Rolly in his place, James was determined to find out Gold's secret . . . and once he did, he'd use it to get the professor sacked . . . if he could. He'd tell his father, and he knew Charles was very good at getting dirt on people to stick.
Today, he resolved, he was going to find out what Gold was hiding. He'd brought his cloak and hidden it in a secret spot behind Hagrid's hut, and he was going to get it and follow the professor today. He'd noticed that every third Sunday the professor left the castle for a few hours, and James was sure it was to go to a secret Death Eater meeting or something equally disgusting. If he could find out where Gold went it would go a long way into cementing his claim that he was an unfit professor and Dumbledore had to get rid of him.
James smiled to himself as he ate his bacon and eggs. He hated the quiet professor, and he was going to ruin the elder wizard if he could, because no one humiliated a Potter and got away with it, especially not some nobody like Gold.
Severus waited outside of the Defense classroom for Professor Gold to get done tutoring Peter in some blocking techniques the Gryffindor was having difficulty with. Pete was often nervous in Defense, ever since the incident with Hardbroom, and his nervousness often interfered with his spellcasting. Severus, Tav, and Dorian had tried to work with the other boy on remaining calm and focused when he cast, but sometimes their efforts weren't enough, and Tav had suggested he ask Gold for some extra help.
Diffidently, Peter had approached the professor after their last Defense class, and asked if Gold wouldn't mind tutoring him a bit. Gold had agreed immediately, and now had taken an hour to show Pete some new ways to block and shield.
Though Severus wasn't in the classroom, he could tell from the even tone Gold used that the professor was being patient with Peter and not rushing him or criticizing him the way another teacher might have. That was one of the things Severus admired about his professor, that unstinting patience. Nothing seemed to rile Gold much . . . except James Potter, and Severus knew Pothead would try the patience of Merlin himself. The other thing Severus liked about this teacher was his willingness to teach outside the box.
Gold used different methods than most other teachers at Hogwarts. He preferred hands-on lessons, where his students did more than practice wand movements at their desks and read chapters. He often had them outside the castle, practicing stealth techniques in the small wooded area used by the Care of Magical Creatures professor. He was now teaching them a charm that would enable one to move as silently as a cat—or a ghost—and to cast an Illusion Charm as well. He had explained that his own ability to walk without a sound was not magical, but the result of long practice.
"It's all about balance, really. Once you learn that, you can do almost anything. And that goes for magic too."
Severus found himself writing down many of the other wizard's sayings, because he found them worthy of being remembered. The professor was also unfailingly kind to Remus, who had told Severus of the time he'd gotten sick after a lesson and how Gold had helped him back to the infirmary. Remus had said that Gold had given him a certain healing potion that would help his queasy stomach, which came from his chronic illness, and it worked wonderfully.
Severus cocked his head, and heard Peter ask Gold a question, then the professor say, "All right, lad. I think you've had enough for today. But you're improving. Just remember to slow down and concentrate on what you're doing before you cast a spell. There's no need to rush, no one's breathing down your neck. Now, I think you ought to go and eat something and then take a nap. Sleep and food will replenish your magical core faster than a potion sometimes."
Severus waited until Peter had left, waving at him, before he knocked on the door.
"Come in, Mr. Snape."
Severus entered the classroom. "How did you know it was me, sir?"
"Oh, I have my ways," the other answered, his brown eyes glinting mysteriously. "What can I do for you?"
"Umm . . . I was wondering if you knew of a way to . . . see through Disillusionment Charms?" Severus asked.
"Yes, I do. There's a countercharm for every spell ever invented, save one. And I'm sure you know what that one is," Gold replied, leaning on the edge of his desk, his hands folded neatly in his lap.
Severus nodded. "Yes, sir. Would you . . . that is, if you have some free time, would you be willing to teach me it?"
"That's a rather advanced spell, Mr. Snape. Usually I don't teach it to students until they're fourth year or older. But I think you have the strength and focus to learn it now, I've seen how easily you perform the elementary disguise spells I've taught your year so far. You seem to have a knack for such spells . . . much as I do. So . . . shall we schedule a time for you to come here . . . say on Saturdays at three o'clock?"
Severus broke into a rare smile. "Yes, Professor Gold. That'll be fine. And thank you."
Gold smiled back. "I'm always glad to tutor willing students, Mr. Snape. Will that be all or do you have any other questions you'd like me to answer?"
Severus shook his head. Then he added softly, "Professor? You . . . weren't always a teacher, right?"
"What makes you say that, lad?" Gold queried.
"Because . . . you teach differently than any other professor I've had. You remind me of the Black Cloaks that guard my grandparents," Severus answered.
Gold chuckled. "I'm flattered, lad, that you'd compare me to them. I can't fight half as well. But to answer your question, no, teaching isn't my first profession. Though I find myself liking it remarkably well, more than I thought I would."
"You're good at it," Severus stated, then went red at his candid admission.
"Thank you. Sometimes I'm not sure."
"You are. Trust me. I've known really horrid teachers and really good ones, and you're one of the best we ever had in Defense."
Gold chuckled again. "Easy, lad. You'll give me a swelled head if you keep singing my praises like this. I simply put into practice here what I've learned at home, with my own children."
"Then you . . . have kids?"
"I do. But they're too young to go here yet," Gold replied.
Severus nodded. He was full of more questions, but sensed instinctively that the reclusive professor had revealed all he was going to right now, so didn't bother asking anything else. "Umm . . . well, I'd be better be going, sir."
"Goodbye, Mr. Snape. I'll see in you class next week," Gold said, then brushed some strands of his brown hair out of his face as Severus left the classroom.
He had a few hours left before he would need to leave, so he decided to spend the rest of his time marking a few papers. Grading was a necessary evil, he sighed, and pulled out his grade log, red quill, and ink from his desk drawer and then reached into his satchel for the third year class's homework.
James crouched down just outside of the gamekeeper's cottage, and dug up the small package he'd buried in the pumpkin patch a few days before. Unfolding the soft sheer folds of his Invisibility Cloak, he shook it out and swirled it about himself. Pulling up the hood, he vanished from view and then moved over to peer inside the cottage from the open back window.
Just in time to see Gold step into the cottage, greet Hagrid, and then turn to embrace a pretty witch with chestnut hair and sapphire colored eyes wearing a blue robe and gray half boots. James was shocked to see the professor meeting such a beautiful woman here, and even more shocked to see a small boy and girl run out of Hagrid's back room to hug the professor about the knees. Both children had the professor's dark brown eyes and familiar smile, though the boy had his mother's dark hair and the girl had her father's straight lighter brown locks.
Gold knelt, his face alight with love, and said softly, "Hello, Sage! I swear, you look more like your mama every day. And look at you, Bayden! You've gotten taller since I last saw you."
"Papa, we missed you," cried Sage, the little girl had her mother's nose and heart-shaped face.
"Yeah, we miss you tucking us in at night and telling us stories," said his son. "When you coming back home?"
Gold sighed. "Not for awhile yet, lad. I have to stay until the year ends, and then I can come home again."
"But that's like forever, Papa!" groaned his daughter.
"I know it seems like forever, sweetie, but . . . if you mark the days on the calendar like I taught you, you'll find they go quicker than you think. And I'll be home for the holidays, so we'll spend lots of time together then." Gold kissed her forehead and snuggled her on one knee and Bayden on the other.
"I miss you too, my love," murmured the woman, smiling down at them.
Gold looked up at her then, and James was astonished to see a fierce longing in the other's eyes. "I know, Isabelle. I know this assignment is rough on you. It is on me too, but you know why I accepted it. Still . . . never doubt that I love you, my brilliant Healer."
James wanted to vomit. How could that beautiful woman love that . . . that ordinary meek as dishwater wizard? It was ludicrous! The woman was clearly highborn, and yet she had married this . . . peasant, James sneered. He supposed there was no accounting for taste.
He scowled then. Doubtless this was why the professor disappeared every third Sunday. But why hide the fact he had a family? No, there had to be more than that to these visits. James went and leaned on the window frame.
Gold rose, gently setting down his children, and went over to the window, reaching for the shutters and closing them.
James almost got his fingers caught before he jerked them hastily away. Snarling swear words under his breath, the dark-haired Potter scion glared angrily at the now shut window. Why had that bloody prick Gold done that? What did he have to hide?
Furious, James pressed his ear to the shutters, listening hard.
He could barely make out the voices behind the shutters. But what he did overhear made him smirk in delight.
" . . . I have what you need here, Bobby," said the low sweet voice of his wife. "I spent all last night brewing it, so I hope it helps. There are so few remedies out there to help lycanthropes . . ."
"Anything you can give me will be a miracle, Isabelle. . . I'm hoping one day you'll come up with something stronger . . . something that maybe will control the curse . . . but until then, this will do . . .sure . . . appreciate it . . . like the last potion you gave me . . ."
James' eyes went wide. He knew Gold's secret now! He heard the professor's son ask something about reading a story and Gold reply quietly, and James backed away, losing the rest of the conversation inside the cottage.
Not that he needed to know whatever else was said. He had what he needed to get the bloody professor sacked. For no one would want their children taught by a werewolf.
He raced all the way back to Gryffindor Tower, spoke the password, and ran inside to his dorm. There he grabbed a piece of parchment and began to scribble out a missive to his father. Then he summoned his owl and told it to fly as quickly as it could to Potter Manor and deliver the message to his father.
Charles had just sat down to a late lunch of roasted chicken with rosemary and some new potatoes with butter and broiled asparagus as well as bread spread with garlic butter when James' owl flew into the room through the open window.
He fed the avian a treat and then took the message hanging upon its leg. Then he opened it and read the contents. His face went black with fury. Pushing back his chair, he strode to the fireplace and threw down a handful of Floo Powder and yelled, "Dumbledore's office!"
Then, when the flames had turned green, he jumped into them. He needed to have a long talk with Albus about the kind of teachers he was hiring these days.
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