The next day, the focus of the new Hogwarts students appeared, to James' relief to move away from him and his famous father. Classes were due to begin that day and the students were anxiously checking their timetables and wondering how they would do in the various classes.
As the school was divided so firmly into houses, James really only heard how the other Hufflepuffs felt they would do, and to his relief, most of them appeared to be almost as nervous as he was.
Alice looked almost as white as the ghosts when she appeared for breakfast that morning.
"What do you think the lessons will be like, James?" she whispered. "Have you heard anything about what we'll have to do?"
Naturally, James had heard plenty-from his parents, his cousins, Hermione... The problem was that he didn't think any of it sounded particularly reassuring. Knowing what they were going to learn didn't make him feel any more confident and he had his doubts that it would make Alice feel any better.
Nonetheless, he wanted to cheer her up. It was unusual for James to find anybody more nervous than himself, and he wanted to be some help. So he began to tell her that his aunt taught Defence Against the Dark Arts, and the kind of things they were likely to learn in the first few months.
Talking to Alice had helped to take James' mind off his own worries, but the little confidence that he had gained was shattered, when Richard stopped at the Hufflepuff table with a couple of other Ravenclaws.
"Looking forward to our first classes, James?" he asked cheerfully. "I can't wait. Naturally, I'm a little nervous, but I think I'm prepared. I took a look at all of the textbooks over the holidays, of course and they don't look too difficult. Don't you agree?"
James muttered something inaudible, and Richard continued.
"Of course they'll be no problem to you. If you're anything like your dad, anyway. And Defence Against the Dark Arts is probably second nature to you, what with your dad being an Auror and all."
Alice turned even paler than previously. Even the names of the subjects were unfamiliar to her, and she couldn't see how she would ever catch up with those who had grown up in the wizarding world.
"Don't worry about it," James whispered to her, once Richard had passed by. "Just because we know what the spells are called doesn't mean we can do them. We don't have that much of an advantage."
James had spent the morning worrying so much about how difficult the subjects would be that he was totally unprepared for his teachers' reaction when they taught "Harry Potter's son" for the first time.
Professor Flitwick, the elderly Charms teacher paused in the middle of the register and practically made a speech to the class when he got to James’ name.
“Ah, James Potter, Harry Potter’s son,” he said. “I taught your father when he was here, and I must say it was a pleasure. Not that he couldn’t be a right little nuisance when it suited him- always up to mischief. But there was usually a good reason for it, which didn’t become clear until things were finally sorted out, often months later. And I must say, he never caused any trouble in any of my classes. I’m proud to be able to say I taught him. Whenever I see his picture in the Daily Prophet, I think ‘that’s young Harry that I taught at Hogwarts.’ Always like to see my old students do well.”
Professor Leaming, the young Transfiguration teacher was even worse. If she hadn’t been a teacher, James would have thought she had a crush on Harry, like Kelly Brown seemed to.
Nearly half of the first Transfiguration class was taken up with her questions about Harry.
“I’m sure most of you are aware that one of our students is the son of one of the most famous wizards of our time. James, perhaps you would like to stand up and tell us a little about your father. I know this isn’t Defence Against the Dark Arts.” Here she paused and gave a little giggle. “But I’m sure that you will all learn quite a lot from hearing of some of Harry Potter’s triumphs.”
Well, what could he say? He would have loved to say “no, I wouldn’t like to tell you all about Dad", but Professor Leaming hadn’t left him much choice, so he stood up.
“Come up here to the front of the class,” Professor Leaming told him.
He did as he said and begin to talk about some of his father’s successes, but it soon became obvious that Professor Leaming was not really interested in the class learning anything from Harry’s adventures. She simply wanted to hear about the private life of one of the heroes of the wizarding world, and she soon began to interrupt James with questions of her own. She sounded almost like a reporter, James thought as he tried not to laugh.
“It must be really exciting to have a father like Harry Potter,” she interrupted. “Does he tell you a lot about his work as an Auror?”
“Sometimes,” James replied. “But a lot of it is secret, you know. And anyway, it’s just his job. I guess most of the stuff he does is pretty boring. To him anyway, because he’s doing it every day.”
Professor Leaming gasped at the “lot of it is secret” part and refused to accept that it could ever be boring.
It was only a matter of time before she asked the question he really didn’t want to answer, and sure enough, she got around to it after five or ten minutes of questions about Harry.
“Your father was in Gryffindor when he was here, wasn’t he?”
“Yes,” James replied reluctantly.
“The best house of them all, I think,” she continued, oblivious to the outraged gasps of the Hufflepuffs. “I always longed to be in Gryffindor when I was at school here. I’m quite surprised to see you in Hufflepuff, actually. I was sure you’d be in Gryffindor, like your dad. How come you aren’t?”
What kind of stupid question was that? Anyone would think he had chosen the house himself! He glanced around the class and realised that everybody was waiting for his answer, all hoping he would say that he preferred to be in Hufflepuff, he supposed. As if that made any difference!! Well it made a difference, he supposed. His father always said that the choices a wizard made were at least as important as his actual abilities, but James’ placement in Hufflepuff seemed to prove his father wrong.
“Well,” the Professor asked, and James realised that she was waiting for his answer.
“I don’t know,” he muttered, feeling stupid. “It was just the house the Sorting Hat placed me in.”
“What does your dad think about that?” she asked.
“He says he doesn’t mind,” James replied, wishing she wouldn’t ask such intrusive questions. “He says that it doesn’t really matter what house I’m in, so long as I don’t disgrace it or anything.”
Well, actually he had said “At least you’re not in Slytherin, son. I wouldn’t like to see you there. But other than that, I don’t care which house you are in. Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw- they all have their virtues. People say that Hufflepuff are a load of duffers, but you remember Cedric Diggory?”
Of course James didn’t remember him. He had died long before James was born, but he knew what his father meant. He remembered hearing about him.
“He was in Hufflepuff,” Harry continued. “And he was the Triwizard contestant for Hogwarts when I was in my fourth year. One of the best student wizards I ever knew.”
Here Harry had trailed off and James knew that he was thinking about Cedric’s untimely death.
James didn’t think his father had ever mentioned before that Cedric had been in Hufflepuff, or maybe he had and James just hadn’t paid attention. The house Cedric was in was hardly the most interesting part of his story.
Still, even hearing that Cedric, a wizard that Harry had obviously admired, had been in Hufflepuff didn’t really make James feel any better. He couldn’t help focussing on another sentence in Harry’s speech. “People say that Hufflepuff are a load of duffers.” Even though his father obviously disagreed with that judgement, James felt that if so many people thought it, their must be some truth in it.
And, anyway, how could he be sure that Harry really disagreed with it. Maybe he was just trying to make his son feel better. Sure, he had liked and admired Cedric, but there were exceptions to every rule, weren’t there? And James found it hard to name any famous wizards who had been in Hufflepuff at school.
Why did Professor Leaming have to ask all these questions and remind him of all the things that had been worrying him ever since the Sorting Hat had placed him in Hufflepuff.
And it wasn’t only the sorting that she had reminded him of. She was also bringing up all the reasons why his father was famous, all the attributes that made Harry a much better wizard than his son could ever even hope to be.
All in all, he was glad when Transfiguration ended.
Potions was to be dreaded for other reasons. Nobody could accuse Snape, the Potions teacher and vice-principal, of being unduly impressed with Harry. Quite the contrary, in fact. James was well aware that Snape had despised both his grandfather and his father and he seemed determined to hate James as well.
“Ah, we’ve a James Potter in the class,” he sneered. “A James Potter in Hogwarts once again. Aren’t we so lucky?”
The class didn’t know whether to laugh or what. It was unusual for a teacher to be so sarcastic towards a student when the student had done absolutely nothing to provoke such sarcasm. Teachers usually reserved comments like that for dealing with students who had misbehaved in some way or disrupted the class. Although it was apparent, just from the first few moments of the Potions lesson that you would want to be crazy to disrupt Snape’s class.
Unlike the rest of the class, James himself was quite unsurprised by Snape’s comments. His father had told him about the Potions teacher’s animosity and James had been expecting abuse from him.
“Strange to find the son of Harry Potter and grandson of James in Hufflepuff!” the teacher continued. “Dear, dear, what would James say if he knew his namesake had not been placed in his old house?”
James tried not to pay attention, but it was hard to ignore the teacher’s constant digs. He wasn’t used to hearing people speak of his father with anything but respect, and despite the fact that it was irritating having to listen to all the praise heaped on him, he didn’t like this criticism either.
Having been warned by his father of Snape’s attitude, James was quite prepared for the questions which the teacher flung at him- well, prepared in that he expected it to happen. He was not so well prepared in the sense of being able to answer them. Having been warned, he had been particularly careful to read up on his Potions before starting Hogwarts, but it was impossible to remember everything in One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi.
Therefore when Snape asked him to list the magical properties of the wolfsbane, he was unable to answer. He was sure he had read it, but he couldn’t remember just what the properties were. Even if he had known, he doubted he would have been able to answer with Snape standing over him, sneering down. The knowledge that the teacher was just waiting for him to fail would have made his mind go blank even he had been asking something James had known well, such as what the mandrake plant was used for.
“We’ll try another one,” Snape continued, when it was obvious that James wasn’t going to answer. “List the ingredients you would use if you wanted to make a Sleeping Draught.”
Once again James was stumped. “Em, fluxweed…,” he began, but he was unable to think of any more.
His embarrassment was added to by the fact that Hufflepuff had Potions with the Ravenclaws, and, proving their reputation for intelligence, a number of them had their hands raised to answer the question, including Richard. It was hard for James to decide who he hated having classes with most- Ravenclaw or Slytherin. The Ravenclaws were certainly nicer than the Slytherins, but they did make you feel stupid by comparison.
Snape ignored all the hands, concentrating instead on humiliating James.
“One, you have managed to name,” he announced triumphantly. “Out of the nine ingredients. I suppose you thought that being the son of the famous Harry Potter, you didn’t need to even open a book before coming. Things like study were for lesser mortals. That was your father’s attitude too. And your grandfather’s, now that I come to think of it. Must run in the family.”
Despite his father’s advice to just ignore Snape, James was close to tears as he left the dungeon. Only the belief that crying would make him seem even more of an idiot than he already felt prevented him from doing so. He really didn’t think he could face heading down to Snape’s dungeon for Potions classes for the rest of the year.
The only class which offered him any kind of respite was Defence Against the Dark Arts. Hermione knew how he hated to be singled out and did not make any comment about who he was. James didn’t think she would have anyway. She was far too concerned with getting the course done, and James sometimes felt that, even if she was a friend of his father’s, she wasn’t all that impressed with him sometimes. It was a consoling thought.
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