Chapter 8 – Snape Victorious
When we last left Harry, he had tried to snoop on Malfoy, got discovered, and is now lying on the floor of the train under a Petrificus Totalus spell and covered with the Invisibility Cloak. This is not a good spot to be in! He can’t move, can’t make any noise, and can’t be seen. All he can do is hope that they check the train and someone trips over him! This is not a good plan!
He also realizes that Ron and Hermione would have assumed that he left without them and won’t realize he’s missing until they’re at the feast. All he can do is listen to the sound of the train being unloaded, people talking (no one talking about him for once). Then the train starts moving, heading back to London. Luckily, it’s Tonks to the rescue! She had been keeping watch at the station and noticed that he wasn’t there. I love Tonks! She still seems really sad though, and her hair is still mousy and brown. Something is going on with her, poor thing. I don’t like it when Tonks is sad! She’s too awesome to be sad!
They have to jump off the train, which they do. Tonks asks who did all of this and offers to fix his broken nose. She also sends her Patronus up to the school with a message so that they won’t worry about Harry’s absence. We also find out that there are three other Aurors stationed at Hogsmeade this year to help with security, including Dawlish, one of the Aurors that Dumbledore escaped from the previous year. As they walk up the path to the school, it’s a bit awkward.
Harry looked sideways at Tonks under his Cloak. Last year she had been inquisitive (to the point of being a little annoying at times), she had laughed easily, she had made jokes. Now she seemed older and much more serious and purposeful. Was this all the effect of what had happened at the Ministry? He reflected uncomfortably that Hermione would have suggested he say something consoling about Sirius to her, that it hadn’t been her fault at all, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He was far from blaming her for Sirius’s death; it was no more her fault that anyone else’s (and much less than his), but he did not like talking about Sirius if he could avoid it.
They finally reach the gates of Hogwarts, which are bewitched so that simple unlocking spells can’t open them. You also can’t climb over the walls. They have to wait until someone comes for them, and who would that be, but the last person Harry really wants to see tonight: Severus Snape. Tonks had sent the message to Hagrid, but since Hagrid was also running late, Snape took it instead. I’m not sure exactly why Snape seems to really dislike Tonks, but he sure seems to. He mentions that he noticed her “new” Patronus and that it looks “weak” compared to her old one. Seriously, what the heck was that all about? Yes, I know why her Patronus changed, but why so much contempt, Snape! What did Tonks ever do to you! Why are you being mean to Sad Tonks!
If we thought the walk with Tonks was awkward, then a walk with Snape is even more so. There is so much hatred and negativity between them, it’s amazing they don’t both just spontaneously combust. Harry blames Snape’s remarks about Sirius having to stay hidden to be partially responsible for why Sirius risked himself at the Ministry. I think that’s a tad unfair, since Sirius would have walked through fire in order to protect Harry, but Harry is also still managing his own grief and guilt. This lets him shunt some of that guilt over to someone that he really doesn’t like anyway.
Snape is his usual self as they walk. He takes seventy points from Gryffindor (fifty for being late, twenty for still being in Muggle clothes) and accuses Harry of wanting to make a grand entrance and get attention. He doesn’t let Harry use his Invisibility Cloak to sneak in, instead making him walk through the doors in the middle of the feast, dressed like a Muggle with his face all bloody. As Harry sits down with Ron and Hermione, they ask what on earth happened while Hermione starts cleaning him up. Also, they confirm that his nose looks normal, so Tonks’s healing worked.
Oh, and Hagrid did arrive. You know I always look out for Hagrid, but he’s fine. He’s up at the staff table. Also there is Trelawney, who Harry doesn’t think has ever attended the start-of-term feast, usually choosing to stay hidden in her tower. Over at the Slytherin table, Malfoy is having a grand old time telling the story of what he did to Harry. Ugh, I would give him such a slap! He’s going through some rough stuff, maybe bit off more than he can chew, but still! Hermione asks what Slughorn had wanted and Harry tells her that he wanted to know more about the events at the Ministry last year. Turns out everyone was asking Ron and Hermione the same questions on the train. Also being questioned? Nearly-Headless Nick. He’s considered a “Potter authority” among the ghosts, since they know he’s friends with Harry. He also promises not to ask too many questions, never wanting to betray Harry’s trust. That’s sweet!
At this point, Dumbledore gets up to address the students and everyone gasps at the sight of his hand, which still looks blackened and dead. Dumbledore brushes this off in his usual Dumbledore fashion and starts giving the usual announcements: items that have been banned by Filch (any items bought at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes), Quidditch try outs, and finally, new staff members.
“We are pleased to welcome a new member of staff this year. Professor Slughorn” — Slughorn stood up, his bald head gleaming in the candlelight, his big waistcoated belly casting the table below into shadow — “is a former colleague of mine who has agreed to resume his old post of Potions master.”
Wait . . . . what? Potions? What about Snape?
“Professor Snape, meanwhile,” said Dumbledore, raising his voice so that it carried over all the muttering, “will be taking over the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.”
Well, that’s a shock. Harry had assumed, as did most people, that Slughorn would be assuming the empty D.A.D.A. post, although he realizes that Dumbledore never actually specified what Slughorn would teach. It just made sense. New teacher + vacant teaching position = logical conclusion that Slughorn would teach D.A.D.A. But no. Snape finally gets the job he really wanted. Harry does take some satisfaction that this should mean that Snape will be gone by the end of the year, since they’ve never had a D.A.D.A. teacher last longer than that. They’ve even had a teacher die in that position (Quirrell) and Harry can’t help but hope for another fatality. Which that may be taking things a bit too far, but I guess I understand the sentiment.
Dumbledore continues, ignoring the hubbub, and reiterates the dangers they are under now that Voldemort and his followers are out and about. Hogwarts has a lot of new magical fortifications, as well as the Aurors who are helping, but that still doesn’t mean that the students can be careless. They need to be on the lookout for anything suspicious and report it as soon as they see anything. It’s a tense time to be at Hogwarts, but Dumbledore wants them to feel as safe as possible.
After the feast, Harry, Ron and Hermione lag behind so that Harry can tell them why he was late and all the things that Malfoy had said. Once again, Ron and Hermione discount Malfoy, claiming that he was probably just trying to impress Pansy Parkinson. At this point, Hagrid interrupts them, asking why Harry was late because he had been worried. Aw! Harry fudges and turns around to ask why Hagrid was late. Turns out Hagrid was hanging out with Grawp, who has a new home up in the mountains. Grawp is doing well, much happier than he was tied up in the Forbidden Forest, which makes sense. Hagrid is looking forward to their first lesson tomorrow and bids them an excited farewell.
But Harry isn’t taking Care of Magical Creatures. Neither is Ron. Or Hermione. Uh oh. This is going to get even more awkward, isn’t it.
See you next time for Chapter 9!