First time

Back to Hogwarts

Chapter 10

Back to Hogwarts

Elizabeth had never before wished for any Christmas holiday to end with such despair. Of course, she had always been looking forward to getting back to school, because after spending almost two weeks solely in the company of her parents, or her grandmother at the most, she usually couldn’t wait to be back with her friends again, but this time, there were two reasons which made her want to return to Hogwarts even more. One was her newly made friend Hermione, whom she was eager to talk to again, the other, since that memorable Christmas day when she had finally realized what her true feelings for him were, was none other than Snape. Yes, she knew the chances that he would be back and teaching again were slim, but then, doesn’t hope always die last? That’s why she nervously counted down the days until her departure, although it sometimes looked to her as if though the time to leave would never come.

But, as it is, even a seemingly endless period of time always comes to an end eventually, so it happened that one morning Elizabeth woke up, only to find herself finally facing the eagerly awaited journey back to her beloved school. And as soon as she realized that there was actually a slight possibility that in less than ten hours she would finally see the man that for the last couple of days she had only been dreaming about, her heart started beating like mad and her stomach felt like someone had dropped something really heavy in it.

Luckily, her last few hours at home turned out to be far too busy for her to follow these thoughts any further, with all the last minute packing and the many orders and recommendations coming from all the family members, so she found herself boarding the Hogwarts Express without giving Snape as much as a single thought for the rest of the morning. Well, almost.

Now that she was safely on the train, though, with most of her belongings resting in the luggage rack, all the thoughts and feelings came back with full force, and Elizabeth couldn’t wait to finally talk to Jane and Hermione about them. But her mother seemed to want to prolong her torture, for she insisted on keeping Elizabeth to herself until the last minute, frantically trying to fill her head with some more advice on what to do if Voldemort attacked Hogwarts. And by the time she was finally convinced she had said everything that was on her mind, the train had already started moving, and was nearly halfway out of the station when she had stopped talking and started waving instead. Elizabeth let out a sigh of relief and went to join the other prefects, including Hermione, in the prefect carriage.

Hermione seemed just as pleased to see Elizabeth as Elizabeth was to see her, and equally eager, if not more, to talk about her Christmas, so as soon as they got all their prefect duties out of the way, they rushed off to look for Jane, the only person left to make their little group complete.

They found her almost immediately, and to Elizabeth’s relief, she was alone, having been saving seats for the pair of them.

“Hello, you two!” she greeted them. “I was wondering what had taken you so long.”

“Malfoy insisted on giving all the prefects a little speech,” Hermione informed her, rolling her eyes. “Anyway, how was your Christmas? I had a wonderful time, my parents took me skiing to the Alps.”

“I spent my Christmas at our little cottage in the country. Most of my relatives were there, too, so it was pretty crowded, but I had fun, nevertheless. And ... what about you, Elizabeth? You didn’t say anything yet.”

Elizabeth, who had been nervously biting her lip ever since she’d entered the compartment, now stopped, took a deep breath and said: “I’ve been at home the whole time, so nothing interesting, really. But ... there’s something I want to tell you. I think I ... I’ve fallen in love.”

“Really?” Hermione exclaimed. “But ... we don’t know him, do we?”

“You do know him,” Elizabeth replied gravely.

“Well, then ... who is he?” demanded Jane.

“Promise you won’t laugh?” Elizabeth asked, and when both girls nodded, she took another deep breath and said: “It’s Snape.”

The girls didn’t laugh. In fact, they didn’t do anything at all, and for a few moments they just sat there, disbelieving expressions planted on their faces, unable to move, unable to speak.

In the end, it was Hermione who broke the silence.

“Well, I must say I had a little ... suspicion, but since you had never said anything, I didn’t want to force you to tell me. Anyway, are you sure it’s not just a crush? I had one on Lockhart in my second year, you know.”

“And I think I had one on Lupin,” Jane chimed in.

“I wouldn’t say it’s just a crush,” said Elizabeth determinedly.

Hermione looked thoughtful. “No, I suppose not,” she said finally. “I’ve never really given it much thought, but I think you’ll both agree with my opinion that Snape is the kind of man people either love or hate. Or respect, like me,” she added hastily.

“But ... you haven’t seen him for more than half a year,” Jane pointed out. “I mean, how can you fall in love, just like that? Are you sure you didn’t just somehow idealize your memories of him?”

“Yes, I’m pretty sure I didn’t do that. You know, what I think has happened is that exactly that half a year had made me realize what I feel for him. Before – I just took it for granted that he would be there every lesson, never failing to show up, never late, never ill. So I never really had a reason to think about my feelings for him, but I reckon I’ve probably loved him all along, it’s just that I’ve realized it only two weeks ago.”

“Well, I suppose that makes sense,” Jane admitted. “What I don’t get, though, is how you can actually love a man like that? I mean, this is Snape we’re talking about! What can you possibly see in him?”

“Jane, calm down!” said Hermione. “The fact that you can’t stand him doesn’t mean everybody else has to feel the same. I’m sure Snape has a lot of qualities, it’s just that they’re not so plain to see.”

“Ah, Hermione, you’re so right,” said Elizabeth dreamily. “For one thing, he’s terribly intelligent ... and skilful ... and knowledgeable ... and, of course, rather sexy...” (at this point, Jane seemed to have been overcome by a very serious looking coughing fit) “...well, and then I would also think that he’s the kind of person you can really rely on, who wouldn’t let you down no matter what if he somehow came about to truly care for you... Well, and lastly, I really believe he’s not half as cold and mean as he appears to be on the outside; that if somebody got to know him better, and I mean really know him, they’d discover that deep inside, under all that protective shell, a shy, sensitive and caring person is hiding, who would give anything for someone to love him and understand him.”

Elizabeth finished and looked around. It was obvious that her two friends didn’t share her view; Jane had stopped coughing and was now laughing uncontrollably, and even Hermione looked as though she was having a hard time keeping a straight face.

Finally, Jane seemed to have calmed down enough to speak.

“You really must love him, Elizabeth,” she said, wiping away a stray tear with the back of her hand. “But honestly, do you believe there’s any chance of him falling in love with you too?”

Elizabeth sighed. “No, probably not. But I assure you I’ll do everything in my power to try and achieve the unachievable.”

“Um ... maybe ... maybe you should know something about him first, “ said Hermione uncertainly. “I think it’s meant to be kept a secret, really, but I trust you and Jane not to tell anyone, so I suppose it won’t matter if two more people’ll know. Well, it’s just that Snape ... was a Death Eater.”

Elizabeth felt as if her whole world had come tumbling down. So it was as she had feared – Snape had joined Voldemort in the end. What was she going to do now? Even if he did love her, she knew she couldn’t possibly live with the thought of him attending all those Dark meetings, fulfilling the orders of that ... animal... But then she realized something. Hermione didn’t say “ a Death Eater,” she said...

“Was?” Elizabeth asked in a tiny voice full of hope.

“Yes, was,” Hermione confirmed. “He’s on our side now, and I think the mission he’s been on since the beginning of the school year is bound to have something to do with him spying on Voldemort.”

Elizabeth was sure she had just recovered from the greatest shock of her life. So it was back to the beginning again – no Dark meetings, no Voldemort ... just Snape. And her.

“Well ... that’s all right then, isn’t it?” she asked, hoping, despite her madly beating heart, to sound calm. Because, after all, Hermione didn’t know that she hadn’t been listening properly, so if she looked as though she was about to collapse, Hermione could get the wrong idea.

But the Gryffindor still looked concerned. “You mean you don’t mind?” she asked, trying to decipher Elizabeth’s expression.

“No, why should I? If he’s really on our side now, it means he has realized that joining Voldemort was wrong, and isn’t that what counts? Everybody makes mistakes, and I’m sure he’s been suffering the consequences of his mistake all his life. And I can’t help but feel that he’s been regretting what he’d done so much that he had actually decided to start punishing himself, and that’s why I think he’s been teaching at Hogwarts for so long – as punishment. Because it’s obvious that he hates the job, even though he tries to give it his best, and that he would much rather be doing something else.

And now ... now he’s risking his life by becoming a spy – in my opinion another attempt to erase his past mistakes. Oh my god, I just hope he doesn’t get killed, because that’d be the end of me, too.”

“I’m sure you’d find somebody else to love sooner or later,” said Jane soothingly. “With that pretty face of yours, it shouldn’t be too hard to find yourself a boyfriend. Anyway, let’s change the subject. Have you two been thinking about what you want to do after school yet?”

Hermione responded instantly. “I want to become a Healer. I know, it’s a very responsible job, and you have to do really well at school – I think you need to get at least ‘E’ at NEWT level in about five different subjects, but I simply love challenges, and that’s exactly what it will be for me – another challenge.”

Elizabeth, who would’ve been more than happy to discuss Snape for the rest of the journey, even despite Jane’s obvious disinterest in the subject, couldn’t resist and had to join the debate.

“Do you believe I haven’t considered my future career yet? What I do know, though, is that I love Hogwarts so much I’d never leave the place if I didn’t have to. It’s like a second home to me.”

“Perhaps you could become a teacher, then,” Hermione suggested.

Elizabeth’s face lit up. “That’s a great idea, Hermione!” she exclaimed, but her expression immediately changed into a frown as she realized something. “There’s one slight problem, though. What will I teach? Do you think any of the teachers’ll retire by the time I graduate?”

“Well, Flitwick’s quite old ... as is Professor McGonagall ... and Mrs. Figg...”

“It could be any of them, then, couldn’t it?” Elizabeth cut in. “Tell me, Hermione, what are the five NEWT classes you are going to take ... the ones you need to become a Healer? Because I think it’d be best if I just took the same ones as you, or most of them, anyway, at least we’d be together and I’d also have two more years to decide which of these subjects I would most likely be able to teach.”

“Yes, I’d say that’s a good idea,” said Hermione. “Now, let me think ... if I remember correctly, then the five subjects I’ll need are Potions, Herbology, Transfiguration, Charms and Defence Against the Dark Arts. So ... which ones’ll you choose?”

“Transfiguration, Charms and Defence Against the Dark Arts, I think. I don’t want to do Herbology, I don’t really like it ... besides, Professor Sprout doesn’t look like she’s about to retire, anyway. And I definitely don’t want to do Potions, not with that idiot Fletcher teaching them. But then again, if Snape was to return, I’d-”

“Ahem,” said Jane and gave Elizabeth such a disgusted look that the Ravenclaw immediately decided to change the subject, suddenly realizing that she hadn’t, in fact, heard Jane’s plans for the future yet.

“Oh, Jane, I’m so sorry,” she quickly apologized. “I got so excited about the idea of becoming a teacher that I forgot all about you. So ... what do you want to do when you finish school?”

“I’d like to work in Muggle relations,” Jane answered readily. “All you need is an OWL in Muggle Studies, which should be a piece of cake, I reckon, with my being Muggle-born and everything. And I’ll probably take the NEWT class, too, even though I won’t really need it.”

“You mean you aren’t going to take any other NEWT classes, just the one?” asked Hermione in disbelief.

“Well, I, unlike you, don’t think studying is the most important thing in the world, because I actually like to have some free time every now and then, but don’t worry, I’ll probably make an attempt to get into the Defence Against the Dark Arts NEWT class as well, and maybe even the Transfiguration one.”

Hermione still didn’t look too satisfied, but Elizabeth said: “That’d be cool if you made it, then there’d be at least some NEWT classes where we would be together. Because I don’t intend to take the Muggle Studies one, I think it’s a waste of time. I’ll probably try and get into the History of Magic one instead.”

“Yeah, I considered taking that one as well, but then I decided that five subjects would be more than enough,” said Hermione, rising from her seat. “Well, I hate to leave you, but I promised Harry and Ron to help them with their Transfiguration homework. Oh, and speaking of Transfiguration, I’ve decided to start taking Animagi lessons this semester. Would you two like to join me?”

“Animagi lessons?” asked Jane, puzzled.

“It means learning to turn yourself into an animal,” Elizabeth enlightened her. “I’d love to, Hermione, just tell me when and where as soon as you find out, O.K.?”

“I think I’ll give it a miss, thanks,” said Jane. “The OWLs will take up enough of my time as it is. So maybe next year.”

“That’s exactly what Harry and Ron told me,” Hermione muttered. “Well, anyway, I really have to go, they’ll probably be all nervous by now. See you at Hogwarts!”

And before either of the girls could react, she was gone. Jane just stared after her for a while, but then she shrugged, shifted herself into a more comfortable position and proceeded to give Elizabeth a more detailed account of her country Christmas. But even though Elizabeth was doing her very best to pay attention, it was of no use: her mind simply kept on wandering off all the time, mostly to Hogwarts and a certain seat at the teachers’ table. After a while she just gave up, fished Hogwarts: A History out of her bag and excused herself by telling Jane that she needed to study. And that’s how she spent the rest of the journey – hidden behind a book, immersed in her little dreamland which featured only one person – Snape.

When the train finally arrived at the station, it was already dark. Elizabeth had managed to be one of the first people to get off the train, and dragging her luggage behind her, she quickly headed towards the horseless carriages, intending to find an empty one as fast as possible. She did so soon enough, and a few seconds later, she was joined by a panting Jane, who had a slightly bigger amount of luggage than her, and also Hermione, who had grumpily announced that her two Gryffindor friends were yet again absorbed in a debate about Quidditch – an activity she would gladly give a miss.

After what seemed like an eternity to Elizabeth, the carriages slowly started moving, and another eternity later, they finally came to a halt outside the open front doors of the Hogwarts castle.

Elizabeth didn’t wait for anyone or anything, because all that was on her mind at that moment was to get to the Great Hall as quickly as she possibly could. Throwing the carriage door open, she took off at the speed of light, flew through the gate, dumped her luggage in the Entrance Hall where it was to be collected by the house-elves, and virtually removed the double doors leading to the Great Hall off their hinges as she came through them at rocket speed. As soon as she was inside, she frantically searched the High table for any sign of the familiar black robes, but with no result – Snape’s seat was empty.

‘Maybe he’s just not here yet, it’s still early,’ she told herself as she, more slowly this time, made her way towards her usual seat at the front of the Ravenclaw table. ‘McGonagall’s not here, either, so don’t panic, there’s still a chance that...’

But Elizabeth never got to finish her thought, because at that moment, Professor Fletcher marched into the Great Hall, and, greeting his fellow colleagues in his annoying, high-pitched voice, dropped down into Snape’s seat, crushing all of Elizabeth’s hopes the same way a beetle gets crushed when a malicious child decides to give its life an early end. She couldn’t run away from reality – Snape was still gone.
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