Parent teacher evening
When Elizabeth woke up the next morning, she immediately put on the same enormous smile that she’d gone to sleep with, the memories of the previous evening evidently still managing to keep her spirits high. Her cheerful mood temporarily left her, however, when her sleep-fogged brain slowly realized which day it was, causing her thoughts to enviously drift to all the people who would now spend the morning unwrapping their presents ... while she’d have to wait until summer to be able to do the same. True, there were still at least the presents she’d get from Jane and Hermione, but when she imagined the huge pile that would’ve been waiting for her under the Christmas tree at home...
‘But it was worth it,’ she decided as she crawled towards the few colourful packages lying at the foot of her bed. ‘Not even the most expensive gift in the world could rival the dance with Snape.’
When she caught sight of her small present pile, however, she was surprised to see not two, but three presents resting on the bed covers.
‘I wonder who that last one’s from?’ Elizabeth asked herself, but decided to leave the sky blue parcel alone for the moment, grabbing a package wrapped in Gryffindor colours that was lying closest to her instead.
“Oh, Hermione, you shouldn’t have!’ she cried when she saw what it was, quickly glancing in Jane’s direction, who was still asleep, to check if she hadn’t accidentally awoken her. But Jane only sighed and turned over, leaving Elizabeth to happily go back to inspecting Hermione’s wonderful present. For it indeed was one of the most useful things she could imagine, as well as something she had been hoping to find under her Christmas tree one day for more than half a year now – a dark purple volume called The Book of Expert Potions for Expert Brewers. With a treasure like that, there should be absolutely no reason for her to have any trouble passing her Potions NEWT tests, and if she could somehow manage to absorb every little bit of information that the book contained, even Snape might finally recognize her as something more than an average student.
After flipping through its pages for several minutes (and eventually discovering an almost invisible inscription at the very beginning – ‘Good luck with Snape!’), Elizabeth finally set the book down on the bed beside her and reached for the next present: this time a medium-sized parcel wrapped in the colours of Ravenclaw. When, after a somewhat annoying struggle with the wrapping (since Jane always took great pleasure in using as much sticky tape on her presents as she possibly could, claiming it was her way of getting the recipients to deserve them), she had finally managed to tear the colourful paper into pieces, a total of about nine or ten different kinds of chocolates fell out onto her bed, accompanied by a short note bearing the unmistakable signs of Jane’s handwriting. Elizabeth curiously picked it up, and couldn’t help but give a quiet laugh after reading the message it contained.
Dear Elizabeth, (it said)
I think these will come in rather handy considering the way Snape keeps on treating you, and while they definitely won’t help you win his love, it is at least something that will calm you down after the many frustrating encounters I’m sure you two are still bound to have in the future.
“Well, it’s true, isn’t it?” came Jane’s sleepy voice from the bed on her right.
Elizabeth turned towards her freshly awoken friend, who was now eyeing her with an expectant look on her face, and sighed. “Most probably, yes, although I don’t think I have to tell you just how delightful it’d be to have a civilized discussion with him sometime ... even if it were to be only once. But since that’s about as likely to happen as Hermione to fail a test, there’s no need to worry – I’m sure your present will undoubtedly be put to good use. Thank you – for the chocolates and for the letter; you really don’t know just how much your support means to me.”
“Sure, no problem,” said Jane, looking somewhat confused. “Anyway, who’s that third present of yours from?”
“I don’t know,” Elizabeth confessed, pulling the turquoise package towards her and slowly beginning to unwrap it. “But I’ll soon find out.”
And ripping away the last remains of wrapping paper, she carefully opened the box that had been hiding underneath and looked inside.
“It’s a camera!” she gasped, quickly taking it out to get a better look. “A wizarding one! But who could’ve...”
She didn’t even finish the sentence, however, when she noticed a little envelope lying at the bottom of the box, undoubtedly containing the solution to the mystery. Wasting no time, she eagerly ripped it apart, seized the letter, and quickly began to read.
I know you’ve been told that you’ll have to wait until summer to get all your presents, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to give you this one now. I’m certain you’ll find lots of ways to have fun with it, just promise me not to tell your mother that you got it early.
Smiling, Elizabeth made a mental note to send her grandmother a really long thank you letter at the first possible opportunity, but she soon forgot all about it as her present claimed her interest once more.
“So?” demanded Jane, seeing Elizabeth wasn’t about to tell her herself, since she was too busy trying to figure out how the camera worked. “Who’s it from?”
Elizabeth reluctantly glanced up from her treasure. “My Grandma. Say cheese!”
After spending about an hour and a half fooling around with Elizabeth’s new toy, as well as having some fun unwrapping Jane’s huge pile of presents, the two girls finally decided that it would be a good idea to also make their appearance at breakfast. And it was about time, too, since the Great Hall was almost empty by the time they burst in through the double doors, leading Elizabeth to the conclusion that had they arrived only a couple of minutes later, all attempts to claim their breakfast would’ve been downright pointless. Surprisingly, though, Hermione and Neville were still there, absorbed in a quiet conversation with their plates lying unnoticed in front of them.
“Merry Christmas, Hermione, merry Christmas, Neville,” Elizabeth and Jane said together, cheerfully taking their seats next to them at the Gryffindor table.
“Thanks for the book, Hermione,” continued Elizabeth when their friends had wished them the same, filling her plate with a huge amount food. “But it must’ve cost you a fortune! How could you-”
But Hermione quickly cut her off with an impatient wave of her hand. “Don’t worry about it, it wasn’t that expensive. Besides, it is quite clear that the present you gave me wasn’t exactly cheap, either. But let’s leave this topic, I have something else to tell you. I bet you two won’t guess what Dumbledore’s planning for the second last day of the Christmas holidays!”
Elizabeth and Jane exchanged puzzled looks before the latter finally said: “I’ve no idea. What?”
“A parent/teacher evening!” beamed Hermione. “It seems like an attempt to give even the Muggle parents a chance to actually meet the people who teach their kids, and not just let them imagine what they’re like from what their dear children decide to tell them. Oh, girls, I’m so excited! I simply can’t wait to introduce Professor McGonagall to my Mum and Dad!”
But Elizabeth was already too lost in thought to listen. She, too, was looking forward to what her parents would have to say about her teachers, and especially Snape. What would he tell them about her? She was already used to the fact that he’d never admit that she was good at Potions in front of her, but was it possible that he’d have at least one good thing to say about her skills when he’d face her parents? She didn’t know, but she was certain that thinking about it just now would be absolutely useless. So instead she pulled out her new camera, and, with a devilish grin, proceeded to ask Hermione and Neville whether they’d mind too much if she took a picture of the two of them kissing.
Neville looked doubtfully around the Hall, apparently afraid that he might spot somebody who could be offended by such behaviour, but Hermione ignored him, looking like she couldn’t care less about such a triviality.
“No, of course not. Go ahead!” she laughed, and immediately leaned across the table towards her boyfriend. “But can we keep the photo afterwards?”
“Sure. I’ll make two of them,” said Elizabeth as she tried to decide on the best way to get the couple into view. Finally, she was satisfied, and therefore also ready for the two of them to begin their little performance. “All right,” she announced, grinning from ear to ear. “You can start kissing – now!”
Hermione and Neville readily obeyed, while Elizabeth wasted no time and quickly pressed the little red button two times.
“Well, you can stop now,” she snickered, seeing the two were continuing to kiss even after she’d laid the camera down. “Anyway, I can’t wait to see how the photos come out; whether-”
But she quickly fell silent when she suddenly noticed Jane throwing meaningful looks in the direction of something – or someone – that was situated behind her, and upon turning around, she soon discovered who that someone was.
“Twenty points from Gryffindor,” he said, an evil smirk playing at the corner of his thin lips. “And ten points from Ravenclaw, Miss Woodhouse.”
Now, this was just so unfair! Elizabeth was sure she hadn’t done anything wrong (unless Snape considered taking a photo of a kissing couple an offence), and she definitely wasn’t going to accept the punishment without a fight.
“What for?” she asked, looking up at him as if trying to challenge him to see just what would happen if he didn’t give her a satisfactory answer.
For a split second, Snape just glared at her, evidently somewhat shocked by her nerve, being in no way prepared for contradiction instead of the humble acceptance that he was used to, but he quickly regained his composure and, in a tone that would’ve sent most students running away as fast as their legs would carry them, said: “I don’t think you are in a position to question my actions, Miss Woodhouse. Unless, of course, you want me to deduct a further ten points from your house.”
But Elizabeth wasn’t about to give in so easily. Not this time. She wanted an answer, and not even a loss of two hundred points would prevent her from doing everything in her power to get it.
“No, sir, I don’t,” she said determinedly. “But I’d still like to know what I did wrong, because I really have no idea.”
Snape threw her a poisonous look. “I warned you, Miss Woodhouse,” he spat. “Ten points from Ravenclaw and ... yes, I think also a detention with Mr. Filch – to help you remember where your place is the next time you speak to a teacher.”
Detention!? And with Filch at that? Now, if Snape had only kept on taking off points, Elizabeth would’ve been fine, since she knew only too well that Ravenclaw had absolutely no chance of winning the House Championship anyway (that privilege being reserved for Gryffindor, or possibly Slytherin), but even she wasn’t suicidal enough to continue demanding the answer after what Snape had said just now, as she was sure he wouldn’t hesitate to assign her even a month of detention if he felt that his authority was being undermined more than he could allow. So, as it was, she only muttered a quiet “Yes, sir,” and settled for a simple sulky glare in his direction as he swiftly made his way towards the teachers’ table, an incredibly satisfied expression spread out on his gaunt face.
Hermione also threw a disapproving look his way, but quickly turned her attention back to Elizabeth and said: “Now, before you start apologizing, as I’m sure you’re bound to do sooner or later, for asking us to kiss in the middle of the Great Hall, and therefore causing Gryffindor to become a couple of points poorer, let me remind you that we could’ve actually refused to do it, making the matter in no way your fault. It’s just that Snape’s got a problem with people kissing.”
“Yeah, that’s true,” chimed in Jane. “He caught Justin and me-”
“What?” Elizabeth looked absolutely bewildered. “Don’t tell me you two are also dating!”
“No, no, just let me finish,” laughed Jane. “It was only a quick good night kiss after the dance yesterday, but that bastard took points off anyway. And you know what I think? That he’s just jealous, because he knows nobody would ever kiss him, not even if he paid them for it.”
“I would,” sighed Elizabeth. “Even for free.”
And when she’d made sure that Snape wasn’t looking, she managed to at least take a picture of him, which, she thought sadly, was probably the best replacement for the real thing that was currently available.
The Christmas holidays came to an end much too fast for any of the students’ liking (with the possible exception of Hermione, who was always eager to get back to class), but for somebody like Elizabeth, there was at least the parent/teacher evening to look forward to, which was now only a day away. Even this day was over before she realized it, however, causing her to suddenly find herself sitting in one of the compartments of the Hogwarts Express and speeding towards London, where she was to meet her parents so she could help them find their way to the Leaky Cauldron. For the much awaited event wasn’t to take place at Hogwarts, as Elizabeth had naively believed at first, but at the somewhat more anonymous place of the pub that led to Diagon Alley, as Dumbledore, quite understandably, hoped for the school’s location to remain a secret.
Finally, after a very long and very boring journey, the train came to a halt, and Elizabeth, saying a temporary goodbye to Hermione and Jane, rushed off to look for her dear parents. She found them soon enough, and after brushing off the necessary greetings, they all set off towards a dark alleyway in the centre of London where Elizabeth knew the Leaky Cauldron to be hidden.
“So, did it matter too much that you had to spend this year’s Christmas holiday without me?” Elizabeth asked as her father brought their car to a stop at a red light, knowing the subject was bound to have been brought up sooner or later anyway. “You didn’t even miss me, did you?”
“Of course we missed you,” her mother replied sternly. “You can’t imagine how lifeless everything seemed without your constant chattering. Even the presents weren’t nearly as much fun as they usually are. Was it at least worth it? Did you have a good time at Hogwarts with that Professor of yours?”
“I had a wonderful time,” sighed Elizabeth, and proceeded to tell her parents everything concerning the evening of her dance with Snape. She had barely finished her narrative, however, when they finally reached their destination, and after a bit of trouble connected with finding a convenient parking space, the family entered the Leaky Cauldron.
Elizabeth immediately took a quick look around in an attempt to spot Snape, but while, to her great disappointment, her search turned out to be unsuccessul, she couldn’t help but be surprised by the change that the usually filthy and full of smoke pub had gone through. There was a lot more light, for one thing, and even the tables were now clean and shiny, each one being occupied by a member of the Hogwarts staff. Dumbledore sat in the very middle of it all, like an emperor overlooking his kingdom, giving smiles in all directions and apparently very much enjoying the fact that the line of parents waiting to speak to him was about three times as long as the lines of the other teachers. And just then, Elizabeth caught sight even of the one teacher she’d been looking for all along, one look being enough to tell her exactly why she hadn’t seen him sooner. For Snape, unsurprisingly, was occupying the darkest, farthest corner that the Leaky Cauldron had to offer, wearing his most menacing expression and treating anyone who dared to come near him with a look that made them think twice before they decided to speak to him at all. And it seemed to work quite well, too, since while each of the other teachers had at least three parents waiting at their table (except Trelawney, who, not counting the jewellery behung woman she was currently talking to, had only one), Snape had none.
Elizabeth seized her opportunity. “Mum, you can go and talk to Snape. He seems to be free at the moment,” she pointed out quietly.
“Is that the one, then?” her mother asked incredulously and, seeing Elizabeth give a small nod, added: “He doesn’t seem a very pleasant fellow to me.”
“He always looks like that,” Elizabeth informed her gravely. “Well, not nearly as bad as today, but almost.”
Her mother made an inarticulate sound of acknowledgement, but, being the stubborn woman that she was, didn’t allow herself to be put off by Snape’s discouraging glares and determinedly set off towards his table, with her husband trailing slowly behind.
Elizabeth watched the three of them talk for a while, but was eventually disturbed by a light tap on the shoulder, and spinning around, discovered a smiling Hermione standing next to her.
“Hello,” the bushy-haired witch greeted her cheerfully. “I see you’ve already got your parents where you want them, haven’t you?”
Elizabeth chuckled. “Yeah. As do you, by the look of it.” And she amusedly pointed to the table of Professor McGonagall, where the Head of Gryffindor seemed to be having a very serious debate with Hermione’s parents.
Soon the two girls were joined by Jane, Neville, Ron and Harry (who had come with the Weasleys, since he was sure that his aunt and uncle would’ve never agreed to accompany him to such a horrendous event), with Elizabeth’s parents returning shortly after. Elizabeth threw a quick look towards Snape, who was now talking to Malfoy’s father, Lucius, but immediately turned her attention back to her own parents, whom she’d already decided to send off for a chat with Flitwick.
By the time the evening was over, Elizabeth had managed to get her parents to talk to all five of the teachers who were currently teaching her, but she only found the time to ask them what they thought about her Professors once they were all finally back in the car, and on their way home.
“So? What do you think of Snape?” she demanded eagerly. “Isn’t he just the most gorgeous man in the world?”
Her father chose not to comment her statement, looking as though he was trying very hard not to burst out laughing, but her mother gave her a worried look and said: “Well, frankly speaking ... no. On the contrary, actually. All that greasy hair ... not to mention the hooked nose and the cruel-looking lips ... he has personality, that’s for sure, but overall I’d say he’s quite ugly. Which, of course, doesn’t mean anything, for even ugly can turn into beautiful if you love someone enough to see past the imperfectness of their appearance.” Here she paused, shot her daughter a somewhat suspicious glance, and then asked: “Eli, how old is he?”
“Forty,” admitted Elizabeth, staring at her feet to avoid her mother’s piercing eyes. But with the exception of a significative “a-ha”, the lady in question remained silent, causing her daughter to suspect her of maybe expecting some sort of further explanation. Finally, she just couldn’t stand it any longer and blurted out: “I know he’s twenty-three years older than me, but I assure you that in the wizarding world, where people can sometimes manage to live even two centuries, it means absolutely nothing! And it’s not like the two of us can ever get together, anyway, because I know he hates me.”
“Elizabeth, calm down!” laughed her mother. “There’s no need to defend your obviously perfectly harmless teacher crush ... even if the man’s more than twice your age.”
“It’s not a crush,” muttered Elizabeth, but eventually let the subject be and asked: “What did he tell you about me, anyway?”
It wasn’t often that her mother looked uncertain, but she sure gave that impression now. “You’re not going to be pleased,” she warned, but since Elizabeth had made it quite clear that she was well aware of Snape’s opinion of her, and that she would’ve never even dreamed of thinking that anything he had to say about her could be in any way positive, she finally reluctantly agreed to give her daughter the answer she wanted.
“Well, he said you’re an insolent little brat,” she began, quickly glancing Elizabeth’s way to find out how she’d react, only to see the girl determinedly staring at the floor, “who shows absolutely no respect towards her teachers ... he couldn’t have just thought that up; what did you do to him, Elizabeth?”
“I simply questioned the unfair punishment that he had given me,” the blond witch replied innocently.
“Well, that explains it, then. Anyway, it went on in much the same way: that you answer back, that your constant wishes of a good day are absolutely uncalled-for, that you try and make even the other students disrespect him ... what did he mean by that?”
“Probably the dance,” snickered Elizabeth. “But I think you’ve already managed to get the point of what he was trying to say across quite well, so now I’d like to know whether my insolence was the only thing you discussed, or whether he’d also happened to mention my performance in class.”
Her mother smirked. “He did, actually, although it sounded more like a continuation of the things he’d complained about before. Said you didn’t concentrate hard enough in class, that you were very easily distracted, that your essays could be more accurate ... that you are an average student, to sum it up. But I thought you told me that he keeps giving you almost full marks for the work you hand in, or am I mistaken?”
“He does,” sighed Elizabeth, feeling her vision blur. So much for her hope of Snape saying something positive about her potion-making abilities.
“Funny. It sounded like you were close to failing, the way he said it. Anyway, let’s leave Snape alone for the moment, instead let me tell you how much the other teachers complimented your work in class. Flitwick, for example...”
But Elizabeth was now only half-listening to her mother’s enthusiastic narrative. She didn’t give a damn whether the other teachers thought she was good; she wanted Snape to recognize her as the top student that she was striving to be! But no, she was sure he was more likely to let Malfoy fail than to do anything of the sort.‘He’s a stupid bastard,’ she thought miserably. ‘Of all the bastards in the world, he’s the biggest one. So why the hell do I still love him?’