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February 9th, 2007

Daphne shut the door to her quarters behind her and breathed. She had done it once more, she had not let the Headmistress' suspicious glare run her out of the staff room. It would have been a shame, today especially, what with the excellent cake her future colleagues had organized for her birthday.

When she had studied for her SQUAWK she’d had no intentions of going back to Hogwarts.

It had not been impossible but very hard to make it as an independent potions mistress in the outside world. She was loathe to give up the few clients she had made even now. Her reputation had been on its way up when Professor Slughorn had contacted her. Daphne knew she could have fought on and made it.

“It’s vital that a Slytherin of our generation gets such a prominent job as a Hogwarts professorship,” she recited Millicent’s words as she had done every day, not that she would ever tell Millicent so. It certainly could not be Pansy who filled the role. Millicent’s own plans would take a little longer yet to succeed.

Technically, Professor Slughorn had little say in who succeeded him, but he had had a say in whom he took on as an assistant. “Here we have a Slytherin who is qualified,” he’d boasted, and purported that the aide position was a trial run and he’d be able to stay on throughout the school year. He’d since assured Daphne that by now the Headmistress had resigned herself to losing him after Easter. “No sense in risking my health,” indeed.

Daphne had made Draco go over every inch of her contract, something that had been made easier by his having access to Neville’s for comparison. Neither of them had been surprised at the paragraph that might as well have been called special Slytherin loyalty clause. Together they had changed the wording to something even McGonnagal would accept and that Daphne could live with.

She hadn’t dared ask Neville how long it had taken him to stop expecting the Carrows behind every corner.

Five weeks of making sure Slughorn didn’t flounder too much had shown Daphne that she did indeed have plenty of thoughts about the professorship, though it would take effort to make the potions lab truly her domain. ‘Maybe I really will move everything out of the dungeon,’ she mused and could just hear Millicent cackling at the idea, but she suspected that the ancient protective spells would be needlessly hard to replicate.

Her eyes fell on a giant bouquet a house elf must have left on her bedside table and that had Millicent’s and Gregory’s fingerprints all over it. Endurance, the flowery message read, brilliance, admiration, and in the midst of it all was the confidence that had been Astoria’s gift for her ever since they’d been little girls.

McGonnagal might try to replace her over the summer. There was ultimately little she could do to prevent it. But she had colleagues who respected her, allies - Neville had known her favourite cake – and friends she would meet in Hogsmeade unless one of her and Slughorn’s afternoon classes caused an emergency.

Daphne smiled and went to prepare for the rest of her day.