Chapter 7 : Snape is Triumphant.
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As September drew to a close, it must have been becoming obvious to all of James’ teachers that he didn’t have his father’s talents.
James had a rather vague idea that his father must have been one of the most able students in his class, despite Harry’s own admissions of his failures in Potions, and his wild guesswork in Divination. Therefore, he was sure that he himself must be a major disappointment, particularly to those teachers who had also taught Harry.
In truth, James’ success in a class was often determined by his confidence in the class and was often inversely proportional to the amount of pressure which he felt was on him. His flying lessons, where he felt confident of his abilities, continued to go well, as did Defence Against the Dark Arts, where he was treated just like any of the other students in the class.
Charms, which they had with the Slytherins was quite another story. Knowing that Cassandra Goyle and a number of the other Slytherins were just waiting for him to make a mistake appeared to completely distract him from the subject itself and led to him making exactly the kind of mistakes they hoped he would.
“Well, what can you expect from a Potter?” Cassandra would comment to gales of laughter from her cronies, whenever James made a mistake. It was obvious that she had no intention of forgiving the Potters for what Harry had done to her grandfather and the other Death Eaters, and she took it out on James whenever she could.
He couldn't help being nervous whenever she was around and did his best to avoid her as much as he could. This was reasonably easy outside of lessons, as the students spent most of their time in their own house's common-room and spent little time with students from other houses, unless they specifically chose to do so. Luckily for James, Cassandra had no interest in spending time with Hufflepuffs-or Gryffindors or Ravenclaws. In her view, Slytherin was the only house worth being in.
Class, however was different, and despite Flitwick's efforts to prevent the Slytherins from taunting the Hufflepuffs, he was not always able to prevail. During the first couple of weeks, Cassandra and some of the other Slytherins lost a good deal of points from their house as a result of their nasty comments when James made mistakes during Charms classes.
Slytherin also lost a number of points when McGonagall caught Cassandra threatening James in the corridors one day.
"You wait," she had muttered to him. "Someday, when you are alone, I'll pay you back for what your father did."
"Could you repeat that please, Cassandra?" McGonagall had asked quite pleasantly, appearing suddenly behind her.
"Em, I said, could you tell me more about what your father did," Cassandra invented quickly.
"That's not what I heard, Cassandra. 20 points from Slytherin for threatening other students, and if I have any more reports of bullying or intimidating behaviour from you, it'll be 50 points and a detention."
After that, Cassandra had refrained from openly threatening James and instead began a more covert form of warfare.
During class, she said little, contenting herself with merely smiling at James or whispering triumphantly to her friends when he made a mistake.
After the lesson was over, however, she would make it a matter of principal to saunter over to James and comment about how easy the lesson was "well, to most of us anyway. Of course, there are always a few idiots in every class." Or else she would declare loudly, in James' hearing "that Potter kid is really stupid, isn't he? Of course, the Potters are such Muggle-lovers that his parents probably didn't even bother to teach him any magic at all, before he started here. Such a pity."
As a result, James began to dread Charms classes more and more as time progressed.
The subject which James dreaded the most, however, was Potions. Snape was delighted by the boy’s seeming inability at the subject and took pleasure in making the most cutting comments he could think of. Like Cassandra, he tended to relate James’ mistakes to the fact that he was Harry Potter’s son. Being a teacher, however, he was a little more subtle in the wording of his taunts.
“I would have thought your father would have told you about that,” he would say when James made yet another mistake. Or “dear, dear, isn’t it a good thing your father wasn’t that careless when he was fighting his final battle with You-Know-Who?”
Somehow, he managed to make it sound as though he didn’t really think it would be a bad thing at all!
If James had been paying close attention to that comment, he might have realised that Snape sounded a lot more uncomfortable saying “You-Know-Who” than people usually did now that Voldemort was twenty years dead. Perhaps if he had noticed this, James might have been a little less awed by Snape. However, he was far too embarrassed by his mistakes and astounded by Snape’s apparent lack of concern about the possibility of Harry having been defeated by Voldemort, that he paid little or no attention to the inflections in his voice as he spoke of the Dark Lord.
As a young child, listening to his father’s stories, James had been far from awed by Snape. Both he and Rose had thought this sarcastic, greasy-haired teacher really quite a contemptible figure, jealous of their grandfather and possibly also of their father, bullying his students and hankering hopelessly after the position of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.
However, it was impossible to dismiss Snape so lightly when he was standing in front of you, with the authority to give you detention, take points from your house or just generally make your life a misery if you crossed him in any way.
From listening to his father, James knew that Snape was nasty to everyone, (except, possibly, the students in his own house, Slytherin) and during the few weeks he had been at Hogwarts, he had already realised that this was definately true. Even Richard, who rarely made a mistake in class and whose homework was usually perfect came in for a fair share of abuse.
James had known, even before he arrived at Hogwarts that, being Harry’s son meant that he would have been likely to come in for more than his fair share of abuse from the Potions teacher, even if he had been among the most able students in the class. However, knowing this did not prevent him from feeling foolish whenever Snape ridiculed his efforts before the entire class. It was particularly embarrassing as he knew that most of the Ravenclaws found the work quite easy and probably thought him extremely stupid to find them so difficult.
Richard reassured him on a number of occasions that this was not true.
"Nobody thinks you're stupid," he told James one day. "We all know what Snape is like, and he seems to particualarly hate you for some reason. No matter how good at Potions you were, he'd find something to criticise."
That was probably true, but it might have been more difficult for him to find something to criticise if James hadn't made so many mistakes, and no matter what Richard or the other Ravenclaws said to his face, James couldn't quite escape the feeling that they were laughing at him behind his back, but, unlike Cassandra and the other Slytherins, were simply too polite to say what they were thinking.
Not that James would have let Snape or anybody else know how he was feeling. He generally paid as little attention as possible to the teacher’s abuse, at least outwardly.
This policy was reasonably successful until one lesson in early October when James’ potion had inexplicably turned green when it should have been bright red. For some reason Snape appeared to be in an even nastier mood than usual that morning and he sneered openly at James’ efforts.
“Well, well, what have we here? This doesn’t look much like an Acne Antidote, does it? It’s hard to believe you’re the grandson of the great James Potter! Dear, dear, what would he say if he could see his namesake’s ability. Or lack of it. I should think he’d be turning in his grave.” Snape laughed nastily as he finished this speech and awarded James a zero for the potion.
Although many teachers had criticised James and Snape rarely stopped sneering at him, this was the first time that anybody had implied that his family should be ashamed of him. Not that the idea had not occurred to James himself, but thinking it was one thing; hearing it voiced was another.
For the rest of the day, James was unable to concentrate and he even started off too suddenly in his flying lesson, causing Madame Hooch to reprimand him sternly.
“I know you are well able to fly a broomstick, James,” she said. “There would be absolutely no reason for you to take off like that if you had been paying even the tiniest bit of attention to what you were doing”
“Sorry, Madame Hooch. I’ll be more careful in future.”
“I should think so. Taking off like that is highly dangerous. You’re a very lucky young man that you weren’t thrown straight off.”
Somehow, he managed to get through his classes, and as soon as they finished, he rushed to the Visual Contact room.
Hogwarts had not stood still since Harry had attended it twenty years earlier. One of it’s more recent developments was the Visual Contact room, where students could magically contact their families. One wall of the room looked as though it was entirely made up of mirrors, but rather than reflecting what was before it, it acted as a window into whatever house a person chose. All you had to do was to walk in, sit down on the chair and announce the address you wanted to contact. Then you would be able to see and speak to whoever was in the sitting-room of that house at the time.
It wasn’t perfect and many wizards declared that it would never replace owl post. For one thing, it was completely useless if you did not know where a person lived or if they were not home at the time. In addition to this, it wasn’t very private as anybody could walk into the sitting room while you were having a conversation. Also, it as yet was only able to contact wizarding houses, although there were plans to improve it so that Muggle borns would also be able to contact their families.
Despite it’s limitations, it was extremely popular, at least among those students from wizarding families, and James sighed when he saw the queue ahead of him.
Eventually, he reached the top of the queue and headed into the Visual Contact room.
“The Potters, Castleville,” he announced and the Potters’ sitting-room appeared on the other side of the “mirror”.
“Hi, James, dear,” his mother said.
“Hi Mum. Is dad there, please?”
“He’s just upstairs. Rose, love, will you just tell your daddy that James wants to speak to him, please?”
“I want to talk to James,” he heard his sister calling.
“In a moment, love. He wants to talk to your daddy first. Will you get him, please?”
Rose did as she was told, reluctantly. While they waited, James and his mother chatted about his classes and his friends and about what had been happening at home while he had been away. His mother was just in the middle of telling him how Rose had received a letter from school, complaining that she had somehow managed to break another girl’s new doll, when Harry walked into the room.
“Well, I’ll leave you to it,” Ginny said, as she left the room.
“So, what’s up,” Harry asked.
“Snape,” James replied succinctly.
“Oh, him! Take no notice of him,” Harry instructed.
“I don’t usually, but today… well, he said that he couldn’t believe I was James Potter’s grandson and that he would be turning in his grave if he knew I was named after him. Something like that.”
Harry laughed. “Coming from Snape, I would have thought that would have been meant as a compliment. He hated your grandfather.”
“Yeah, I know, but he said it more as if….as if he was really pleased to see him being…let down or something. As if having me for a grandson would pay him back for something. Do you think granddad would be ashamed of me?”
“No, of course not,” Harry replied, but the answer came a little too soon, as though he was trying to convince someone- James or himself?
“You don’t sound sure,” James pointed out.
“James, my father died when I was about eighteen months old. How can I be sure how he would feel about anything? I don’t know for sure how he’d feel about you. Or about me, for that matter. All I can say is that I can see no reason why he shouldn’t be proud of you. I am.”
Nevertheless, James could not help focussing on the doubt in his father’s voice. Admittedly, what he had said was reasonable. He could not know how a man he hadn’t seen since babyhood would know about anything. And yet, James felt that if he had been a really good wizard like his father, Harry would be able to make a pretty fair guess that the first James Potter would be proud to call him his grandson. After all, nobody ever doubted that he would be proud to have Harry for a son.
The question continued to play on his mind as he spoke to his mother and his sister, and for a long time after he left the Visual Contact room.
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