Title: The Little Joys of Teaching
Character: Severus Snape
Beta Reader: leela_cat
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
Summary: Severus Snape begins his teaching career at Hogwarts.
Severus Snape looked at the copy of Advanced Potion-Making on the desk in front of him blankly, then back at the scroll of parchment he'd been taking notes on. When Albus Dumbledore had offered him the Potions position instead of Defence Against the Dark Arts he'd almost turned the man down. Didn't the Headmaster realise that as a former Death Eater, Severus could be of most use teaching Defence? Perhaps the old man was worried that he'd teach the Dark Arts, instead of how to defend against them.
Severus shrugged and returned to his lesson planning. Seven courses, from beginning Potions through N.E.W.T. levels, and he was in control of them all. Horace Slughorn had done a passable job, but Severus wanted to revamp the curriculum. Maybe during his second year - if he made it that far. For now, he just needed to get a handle on what he had to teach rather than what he wanted to teach.
Students were returning to Hogwarts in less than a fortnight; however, Dumbledore hadn't given Severus his class schedule yet. With the lower years attending classes in paired houses, Severus would be teaching the same lesson twice for each year - only his N.E.W.T. classes, one for sixth years and one for seventh years, would include students from all four Houses. At least, it meant a bit less planning for the number of classes for which he was responsible - twelve, if his count was correct.
Severus rubbed absently at his left forearm. Although Voldemort was dead, there were still times when Severus could feel the presence of his Dark Mark - not the burn of the Dark Lord's call, more of an irritation that called for his attention. He took a deep breath and squeezed his eyes shut to refocus his attention, then blew his breath out slowly. Not for the first time, Severus wondered if his life would ever be normal again, or if he would always be tied to Voldemort. Penance for his sins, Severus supposed.
Dismissing his maunderings, Severus brought his attention back to the present where he had more than enough to worry about. How was he supposed to teach these children - many of whom were only a few years his junior - with no formal teacher training?
The first staff meeting of the year had Severus feeling a little nervous. Most of the professors had been his own teachers, and he felt uncomfortable addressing them by their first names, even though they'd all invited him to do so.
Severus looked around the oval table in the staff room. At one end was Headmaster Dumbledore, resplendent in mauve robes with gold stars and moons scattered across them. Beside Dumbledore was Minerva McGonagall in tartan-trimmed robes and small round-lensed spectacles perched on the end of her nose. Filius Flitwick sat beside her, in a tall chair that reminded Severus of a baby's high chair. Flitwick caught Severus' eye, and smiled encouragingly at him.
At Dumbledore's other side was Poppy Pomfrey, the school mediwitch. She'd already spoken to Severus about brewing medicinal potions for the infirmary, and Severus had begun planning a brewing schedule that wouldn't interfere with his course work. Severus suspected that he'd be drawing on his ability to work with very little sleep - and to brew Pepperup Potion - at least until he got the hang of things.
Beside Pomfrey were Xiomara Hooch and Pomona Sprout. Severus made a mental note to speak to Sprout about using a portion of the greenhouses to grow potions ingredients. Professor Binns floated in through one of the walls and hovered over a seat beside Sprout. Apparently Dumbledore had been waiting for Binns' arrival, because he chose that moment to start the meeting.
"Welcome back, everyone," Dumbledore said. "I trust you all had a restful summer holiday."
Murmurs of assent were heard from around the table, and he continued. "I would like to welcome Severus Snape to the staff. I'm sure most of you will remember him, as he graduated only a few years ago. Severus is taking over for Horace, who decided to retire and pursue other interests."
More murmurs and nods from around the table, though nobody came right out and said, 'Welcome.'
"And, finally, I would also like to introduce Roberta Dobson, who will be teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts." A mousy-looking woman of indeterminate age who must have arrived in the staff room at the same time as Binns sat in the empty seat between Flitwick and Severus himself. She nodded a greeting and folded her hands in her lap.
Your skills are slipping, Severus berated himself. How had he missed the woman's arrival?
Severus cast a glance in Dobson's direction, sizing her up and deciding that she came up wanting in his eye. Of course, since he'd wanted that very position, there was no way anyone Dumbledore put there instead of him would be good enough. He settled back in his seat, and focussed his attention on Dumbledore. Perhaps he would learn something about the inner workings of the school that would be useful for a brand new professor.
The Welcoming Feast was about to begin. About three dozen scared-looking eleven-year-olds stared up at the staff table from where Hagrid had escorted them into the Great Hall. Minerva brought out the Sorting Hat, and began calling names. It surprised Severus that each House received about the same number of new students. He wondered if that was always the case, and whether he would be present at the next Welcoming Feast to find out. If this year goes well, then perhaps Dumbledore will let me stay.
Dumbledore welcomed the new students and introduced the staff. When Severus' name was called, he half-stood and scowled down at the students. Might as well cultivate a surly reputation from the beginning - it wasn't going to be all sunshine and roses in his class, Severus thought.
Professor Vector leant towards Severus once he sat down again. "Good plan, my boy. Start out grumpy, and you won't have to worry about whether or not they like you."
Before Severus could respond, platters full of food - generously loaded, as the Welcoming Feast always was - appeared on platters in front of him. Apparently Dumbledore had finished his speech. He did tend to blather on, Severus decided, and hoped he hadn't missed anything important. Severus had tuned out after he'd been introduced.
Severus stalked into his classroom once the first years had taken their seats. Eighteen students divided equally between Gryffindor and Slytherin. Polar opposites, if you asked Severus. Dumbledore certainly had an odd sense of humour, putting those two Houses together in the Potions lab. Severus could only hope that someone in the group had potential as a brewer.
Coming to a stop at the front of the classroom, Severus turned on his heel to face his students. His robes swirled and settled around him. I must work on that move, he thought.
"The art of Potions making is both scientific and magical," Severus began. "Potions heal, and potions kill. Potions are central to many aspects of our lives as wizards. I can teach you to brew fame, bottle glory, and even stopper death. If you don't blow us all up in the process."
A wave of Severus' wand revealed the list of ingredients for the firsties' first potion. With only four ingredients, Boil Cure potion was quite simple and should be a relatively smooth beginning to Severus' teaching career.
"You must be very careful to follow instructions when brewing a potion - even an uncomplicated one such as this," said Severus. "Add each ingredient in the precise order and exact quantity listed, and make note of which direction you must stir - and how many times. Counter-clockwise energy is different from clockwise and could cause your Boil Cure potion to become a Boil Making potion instead."
Severus circulated among the students and was happy to note that one student from Gryffindor - a red-haired boy named Bill Weasley - seemed to have a natural talent for brewing. As for the rest, it would take some work to ensure they could brew a passable potion, though none appeared to be a particular dunderhead, either. When the class ended without any of his students covered in boils or having exploded the contents of their cauldrons, Severus counted it a success.
Mid-afternoon, Severus always found himself heading towards the staff lounge for a cuppa between classes. Normally, the room was empty at that time of day - with such a small staff and so many students, it was unusual to have more than one professor off during the same period. Severus enjoyed the quiet along with his tea before heading back down to the dungeons for his last class of the day.
Thursday afternoons, however, it appeared that Filius also had a free period.
"How are you settling into teaching, Severus?" asked Filius once Severus had sat down with his tea. Filius levitated the plate of chocolate biscuits over to Severus, who took two and sent the rest back to the sideboard.
"The younger students are intimidated by me," said Severus. "I don't mind that so much; in fact, I encourage it. On the other hand, the older ones intimidate me a little. At least in part because some of them were students here at the same time I was."
"That would be disconcerting for any new teacher," agreed Filius. "Although they are probably intimidated by you as well."
"Perhaps," said Severus, taking another sip of his tea.
"Just remember that you're in charge," said Filius. "No matter who you were when you were a student - or after you left Hogwarts - you are a professor now, and deserve their respect. Don't be afraid to take House Points to make a point."
Severus' stomach clenched at Filius' mention of his life as a Death Eater, but he willed himself not to react visibly. It would be advantageous to have an ally on his side.
"I will keep that in mind, thanks." Severus popped the last bite of his biscuit into his mouth and banished the crumbs from his robes before nodding to Filius and leaving the staff room.
Severus' boot heels clicked on the stone floor of the dungeon corridor. Evening patrol had to be one of the more odious tasks on his timetable. Turning a corridor, Severus came upon a pair of students who were out past curfew. Hidden partly behind a suit of armour, they were a Gryffindor boy and a Hufflepuff girl, judging by the crests on their dishevelled-looking robes. The girl's cheeks flamed as she hastily re-buttoned her robes.
"I do not believe the Inter-House Recreation Society meets tonight," drawled Severus. "Fifteen points from each of your houses. Return to your dormitories immediately."
"Yes, Professor Snape."
"Sorry, Professor Snape."
As the students scurried away down the corridor, Severus continued his patrol. He rousted three couples from the top of the Astronomy Tower and decided to stay there awhile. To make certain no other students come, Severus told himself.
The night was cool and the sky was clear; a perfect night to observe the skies. High above him, Severus saw the red and white lights of a Muggle aeroplane, and Severus wondered absently where it was headed.
"You know, if you stare at them long enough, they become a part of you," said a voice from behind Severus.
Severus silently berated himself - he hadn't heard the footsteps signalling Professor Sinistra's arrival. Some spy I am, distracted by twinkling lights.
"Indeed, Professor Sinistra," said Severus. "I'll be going now. I'm sure you have a lot of work to do on such a clear night."
"You may stay if you wish, Severus. I don't mind the company," said Sinistra. "And please, do call me Aurora."
"I must continue my patrol," said Severus as he walked towards the stairwell. "Good evening, Aurora."
The seventh-year N.E.W.T. level class was Severus' first true test as a teacher. He was only four years older than these students; they had been third-years when he was last at Hogwarts.
"We shall begin with a potion that should be familiar to you from your sixth year class," said Severus in what he hoped was his most menacing tone. Severus flicked his wand at the blackboard, and the ingredients for Draught of Living Death appeared. "I do recommend that instead of cutting your sopophorous beans, you crush them with the flat of the silver dagger that you should have among your brewing equipment."
"Sir?" Kingsley Shacklebolt wore the blue and bronze striped tie that identified him as a member of Ravenclaw House.
"What is it, Mr Shacklebolt?" snapped Severus.
"Those instructions are not in the text. Do you have any other suggestions for us?"
"Indeed, Mr Shacklebolt," said Severus. "When stirring, stir once clockwise after every seventh counter-clockwise stir. I do hope Mr Borage wasn't paid well for his textbook. You'll find that as the year progresses, we'll be correcting many of his errors."
By the end of the double period, each cauldron's contents had progressed from deep purple to lavender to its colourless form at the completion of brewing, and a wispy blue fog of potion vapours hung in the air above. Severus decided that the N.E.W.T. class was bound to be his favourite of the year.
Severus Snape's first year as a teacher passed in a blur of lesson planning, marking essays, and late night patrols. He knew each of his two hundred and forty students by name - no mean feat with everything else he had to remember - and had ideas for reworking the Potions curriculum for the following year. If Severus started with the lower classes, over the next several years, he could make the programme his own.
Filius Flitwick had been his mentor in more ways than Albus had, sharing tips on dealing with unruly students, and hints on time management, for one hour every week during their afternoon tea break. Severus was especially grateful for the suggestion that not every piece of work that students completed needed to be graded - he would still be buried under a pile of parchment if he'd kept up as he'd started.
With final examinations marked - all except the O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s that were handled externally by the Wizarding Examinations Authority - Severus looked forward to his summer hols in a way he never had as a student. Spinner's End had been a very depressing place to grow up. Luckily, as a professor, Severus had the option of spending the summer at Hogwarts.
Taking his seat at the staff table one last time before the students left, Severus turned his attention to Albus' Leaving Feast speech. Well, some of his attention.
Severus stalked into his dungeon classroom once the latest group of first years from Slytherin and Gryffindor were seated. At the front of the class, Severus turned on his heel, causing his robes to swirl about him before settling about him in neat folds. Better, thought Severus. He scanned the faces of his students, flicking back over a freckled red-haired boy who must, on second glance, be Bill Weasley's brother. Severus hoped this younger boy was as good a student as his brother.
"You are here today to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion making," Severus began. "As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I don't expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses.... I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even put a stopper in death -- if you aren't as big a bunch of dunderheads as I taught last year."