Up at the teacher’s table, professor Quirrell was talking to a teacher with dirty red hair hanging around her sickly pale face like a curtain. Looking past Quirrell, two poison-green eyes, devoid of any warmth or empathy, found Harry’s own brown ones, and he felt a sharp pain on his scar.
“Who’s that teacher talking to professor Quirrell?”
“Oh, you know professor Quirrell already do you? No wonder he’s looking so nervous, that’s professor Evans, the potions mistress. Don’t get on her bad side, the old hag hates students.“
Harry looked again, but the teacher was no longer looking at him. Still, Harry could not escape the nagging feeling, which he had gotten just from a glimpse of her eyes and the cruel twist of her lips, that professor Evans did not like him very much.
By the first potions lesson, Harry was proven wrong. Professor Evans did not dislike Harry, she hated him.
“Ah- Harry Potter, our new….celebrity.”
The room stayed quiet, expect for Crabbe and Goyle who snickered behind Harry. If the older Gryffindors had warned Harry of keeping his head down in potions as “the nasty old hag would take any excuse she could get to take away points” the Slytherins didn’t seem any surer of their footing in the freezing cold classroom, surrounded by dried and pressed examples of poisonous plants.
“Tell me, mister Potter-“ she drew out the name Potter, tasting it in her mouth, “what are the main properties of Convallaria majalis?”
Harry swallowed in panic. He could remember reading nothing of Convallaria majalis, rest alone its use. Besides him Hermione was stretching her hand up, almost jumping up and down on her seat.
“I see. Thought you wouldn’t put any effort into your studies. Thought that you would breeze through with you money and fame-“
“No, I do not-“
Harry felt a burning sensation in his stomach that he usually only associated with his relatives. He hated her.
“Why don’t you ask Hermione, she seems to know!”
Her hawk-like gaze settled on the bushy haired girl vibrating on her seat, who took the sudden shift in attention as a permission to speak.
“Convallaria majalis, commonly known as Lily of the valley, or alternatively Mary’s tears, was in the past believed to hold medicinal properties, but recent research has shown that the adverse effects outweigh any medicinal properties as all parts of the plant are extremely poisonous.”
Professor Evans twisted her lips into something that could not in good conscience be called a smile.
“An eager muggleborn girl ready to prove herself to the wizarding world. Merlin, I hate your type.”
In a swish of robes, she turned around and stalked to the front of the room, leaving behind Hermione who was flushing bright red from mortification.
“Take your books out, page 12, we will start with a simple swelling solution-“
“-And then after she completely humiliated Hermione, she blamed me for Neville’s accident! Why does she hate me so much?!”
“Now, now.” Hagrid tutted. “Professor Evans doesn’t hate you… She just, has a strict style of teaching.”
Harry and Ron both looked at the gamekeeper with disbelief.
“Well.” The gentle half-giant continued, clearly uncomfortable. “She did not have the best relationship with your father. They were always a bit at odds…and then there was the- well, not my story to tell. Don’t you mind about professor Evans. She can have a temper, but she is as clever as they come. Just let it all go in at one ear and come out at the other.”
Harry let the matter drop but could not help but feel unsatisfied with Hagrid’s assurances. Whatever story there was behind professor Evans, Harry felt that it couldn’t excuse the way she acted.
“-Arrogant, thoughtless, attention seeking idiot, just like your father!”
Seething in anger, Harry ground his teeth until they hurt.
Looking into the mirror of Erised, Harry felt a tight band constricting around his chest. From the depths of the mirror stared back a tall man with Harry’s messy black hair and a short, pudgy woman with Harry’s wide, kind, honey-brown eyes. Harry had never seen pictures of them, but he instinctively knew that these were James and Mary Potter. His parents.
Yearning like never before filled Harry. These people looked at him with love and want. They would not have been afraid to have wizard growing in their house.
Not like the MacDonalds, who smiled and laughed and never really accepted Harry into their home. Harry, who lived in the biggest bedroom, had all the toys he had ever asked for and was never hugged like his cousin Emily. Emily was carried around on piggy-back and helped with math homework (Harry, you are going to Hogwarts when you are eleven, you don’t really need math) and gifted a racing bike for Christmas while Harry got money that he could use to buy a broomstick when he went away to Hogwarts.
(But I wanted to join Emily and her friends when they went biking.)
(And why would we want you with us!?)
(Emily had been grounded a week for daring to talk back to Harry and Harry had overheard the MacDonalds lecture their daughter on the danger she had placed them all, upsetting a wizard.)
Sitting down on the cold, stone floor, Harry stared at his parents and the other Potter family members cheerfully waving to him behind his parents.
He stayed there, transfixed by the image, the entire night.
“Longbottom!! Did I not tell you to add the beetles after the pixie-dust! Are you too simple to listen or do you foolish Gryffindors simply not value the lives of your classmates! Or do you need your grandmother here to hold your hand, give you a little help to pass the class? Well unfortunately for you, and all the other fools in here, it is only good results and work that will help you pass my class, which you clearly are incapable of producing.”
Swish of robes and the green eyes were once again settled on Harry.
“And what are you sulking there Potter. Think working for your grade is beneath you!”
“I don’t understand….I thought Evans-“
“Ah, yes. Evans.” Hissed Quirrell. “Very useful isn’t she. Creeping around, looking like she should be offering you poison apples or putting curses on innocent babies.” Quirrell’s laughter was whining, like drawing of nails on a chalk-board.
Stalling for time, Harry forced the conversation back to his least favourite teacher. “But she was trying to kill me during the quidditch game-“
“Oh you stupid little boy. I was trying to kill you. She was trying to save you with her little counter curse. Just like she was trying to stop me from getting the stone on Halloween. That nasty, meddlesome witch, if only she knew who she was thwarting-“ Quirrell hissed, twitching weirdly, almost like he was staring to have a seizure, but did not quite get there.
Terrified, Harry tried to think of something, anything, to keep the man talking and not doing anything else.
“I thought Evans hated me.”
“Hated you? Why of course she does.” Quirrell snickered. “After where your father- why that woman knows nothing but hate. But no, I doubt she has the stomach to see dead students in this school…She has always had her own crusades…”
Harry heard the words, but they made no sense to him, the fear of the situation was too strong for him to focus on anything expect on how to possibly to survive the encounter.
In the hospital wing, Harry ached all over, and everything felt a bit too bright and bit too muffled at the same time. Dumbledore’s half-moon spectacles glinted hypnotizingly in front of Harry’s eyes which refused to focus properly, as he tried to get his scrambled thoughts into some kind of order.
Voldemort, his return and apparent defeat. The depths of his parents’ bravery for fighting Voldemort to the last step, his mother’s sacrifice. The protection that said sacrifice had granted him. It was all too much and not enough information at once. Harry felt overwhelmed, but at the same time the holes in Dumbledore’s story left him desperate for the entire story hidden behind this brief account.
“Anything else my boy?”
“no I…Wait. Evans-“
“Professor Evans, Harry.”
“Professor Evans, Quirrell said that my father- That he and Evans- What did he mean?”
“Ah. Your father and professor Evans.” Dumbledore looked suddenly older, less like a whimsical grandfather. “Professor Evans did many mistakes during her youth and sometimes it is easier for us to find scapegoats than to face our own flaws. I’m afraid that professor Evans finds it easier to blame your father than to face the past. They were quite at odds, your father and Lily, during their time at school. A bit like yourself and Mr. Malfoy.
“But why would she save me then?”
“Professor Evans is a complicated woman, but not evil. She might blame your father for a lot, but at the same time she knows her own mistakes and regrets them deeply. I believe that she wants to atone for them by protecting you.”
“So, she blames herself and my father at the same time?”
“So she does.”
“That makes no sense.”
“Our feelings rarely do, my boy.”
“What did she do-?“
“And now it is time for you to continue your rest. Madam Pomfrey is already giving me her stern glare for keeping you up with my old man’s nattering. Sweet dreams Harry, my boy. You have been very brave.”