The Sugar Quill
Author: Juliane (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Foreign Defenses  Chapter: Chapter One
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Chapter One

Bad idea. Very bad idea. Worst idea you’ve ever had. A roomful of children and I haven’t a thing to say to them. Bloody hell.

 

Viviane Chance tried to slow down, but the witch who had a firm grasp on her arm kept hurrying her down the corridor at a relentless pace. The faces of the carved beasts on pillars and the inhabitants of the portraits flashing past appeared smugly amused at her predicament, so Viviane bared her teeth at them. “Manners!” snapped a farthingale-clad woman, shaking a finger at the new Professor.

Minerva McGonagall turned to her, not breaking stride. “I’m sorry to drag you straight off the train and into the classroom, but-“

“Oh, I know I’m late. It was unavoidable, however, and…” Viviane’s voice trailed off as they stopped before a heavy oaken door and she got a good look at her companion. The impeccably dressed and groomed Professor made her uncomfortably aware that her hair was coming down from its loose bun and her black robes were streaked with dust and covered in wrinkles. There was a large rip in her skirt where she’d caught it on the door of the carriage.

“This is it? They’re, er, in there?” Viviane whispered. Professor McGonagall merely lifted an eyebrow. “So,” said Viviane in a firmer voice. “This should be interesting.”

“For the students as well,” Professor McGonagall replied. “None of us have much experience with magical skills used outside of Great Britain.” She smiled rather grimly. “Good luck.”

I don’t even get an introduction? Viviane thought in a panic as she watched Professor McGonagall stride off down the corridor. She reached for the iron latch on the door, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. No more stalling. You got yourself into this.

 

She wrenched the door open and walked in, chin high, looking down her nose at the students as she took her place behind the desk.

“Er, hello,” she greeted them. “My name is Viviane – I mean Professor Chance, and I’m here to teach you some unusual – for you - aspects of Defense – both against the Dark Arts, and more general threats,” she continued, in a more confident voice. “Now, let me find out who you are.”

As she read the class list, a corner of her mouth lifting over a few familiar names, she scanned the faces of the students, who looked either apprehensive or bored. Viviane puzzled over the lack of excitement that she remembered a new teacher usually generated. Has Albus neglected to mention a high staff turnover rate?

She glanced back up at the students, hoping she didn’t look as confused as she felt. You’re here to teach. So teach! Viviane told herself, and walked swiftly from behind the desk. It would be easier if I knew how. “Stand up,” she commanded, and the students stumbled to their feet, startled by her sharp tone.

“Balance on one foot.” She watched with amusement and crossed arms as about half the class toppled over, and a few of those still standing made desperate faces as they swung their arms wildly and hopped in place, trying to stay upright.

Viviane sighed. “How on earth do you expect to defend yourself when you can’t even maintain a decent sense of balance? Everybody get up and try again.”

Amid murmurs and surreptitious glares, the students did, and the results did not improve. Viviane tapped her wand on her desk meditatively, causing purple sparks to drop from the end. “All right, I see the first half of class will consist of getting the lot of you into shape.” She noticed one tall, red-haired boy was still standing negligently on one foot.

Viviane looked him over with a flick of her eyelashes. Tall, skinny, rather unfortunate shade of hair. Ron Weasley, she recalled. “You, at least, have decent balance. Older siblings at home?”

The boy grinned at her. “Too many.”

“You look like you’ve had plenty of opportunities to use basic Defense skills.” She clapped her hands to gather attention and taught the class a few simple exercises to help their balance. “Make sure you practice these well before next class – I’ll be timing you!” she said.

A girl in the front row, with bushy hair and alert eyes, waved her hand. “Professor? Since this class was added mid-year, we don’t know which textbook you’ll be using.”

Viviane was brought up short by the request. “Textbook? Oh, er, I – I don’t think we’ll need one.”

She turned away from the girl, who whispered, “Why do all of our Defense Professors insist on teaching without books? Perhaps that’s why-“

 

“Lockhart assigned plenty of books, but then again you liked-“ the Weasley kid whispered back.

“I did not-“ hissed Granger, Viviane thought, glancing at the class list.

Resisting the temptation to eavesdrop on the rest of that conversation, Viviane again rapped for attention.

“What I’m going to teach you isn’t written down. You will learn through practice, and through controlling and directing the powers you were born with. It is a different way of thinking and using magic, from a different culture, but you will learn it. I suspect that it will come in useful.” Viviane, for the first time, looked Potter straight in the eye and found him to be looking fearlessly back at her. Granger, obviously aghast, glanced at Potter but Weasley whispered “Excellent! I like this kind of culture!”

Viviane stood still and summoned the Shield. “Someone throw a curse at me.” The class sat quietly, looking scared. “Come, now. I know you aren’t supposed to know any, but surely most of you have picked up one or two. You, Finnigan. You look like you must know some basic curses. Just use a mild one.” The boy took out his wand and tentatively summoned a Jelly-Legs Jinx. It was absorbed by the Shield, and the class gasped, impressed. Several students tried their best to get through, but finally Viviane had them desist and she let down the Shield. With a sigh, Viviane noticed that Hermione Granger had her hand up again.

“What is it, Miss Granger?” Viviane asked.

“Professor, you didn’t use a wand!” the girl said in a shocked voice.

No, I didn’t,” Viviane said, her voice clipped. “You don’t need one to raise the Shield, although you might want to use yours in the beginning as a something to focus on while you’re trying to gather up enough energy. Any other questions?”

A student who, until now, had been cowering in his seat, raised his hand.

“Yes, let’s see, what is your name again?”

“N-Neville Longbottom, Professor. Um, Professor Chance, how powerful is the Shield?”

“It will repel most low to mid-level curses, but can only slow down the worst of them, say, the Avada Kedavra curse. In which case, it won’t save your life, but it may give you time to throw the spell back at your attacker.” She had already turned her back on him when she heard him speak up again.

“Um, Professor, um…” stammered Neville.

Viviane turned back around with a look that made the boy sink further into his chair. “Yes, go ahead. What is it?”

“But - but the Avada Kedavra curse isn’t allowed,” he whispered.

Derisive laughter erupted from the back of the room. Viviane caught the eye of a boy in the back row. He’s the Malfoy, Viviane noted, taking in his sharp chin and narrow gray eyes. Charming. His face was twisted in a sneer.

“What a dumb question. The answer is obvious; of course you use it. You’re dead anyway so you may as well kill your attacker.”

Viviane walked through the class to the side of his desk, and stared down at him. “Do you find the answer so obvious? I think Longbottom has brought up a point that is integral to this class, and one which all of you must consider deeply and at length.” The boy looked away, and Viviane walked back to the front of the room, and turned, looking intently at each student as she spoke. “Just how far are all of you prepared to go in defense of … Hogwarts? Your own life? The life of someone you love? Or for revenge? You need not make these decisions now, but you must think about the consequences of the powers you are learning to use, and the limits, if any, to which you will confine them.” The class was so quiet that they could hear the murmur of the class next door.

“Pair up,” she ordered, and the students once again scrambled to their feet. “I’m going to show you how to raise the Shield. You may use your wands at first, but if you like, you can try to concentrate the power on your own. Once you know the spell, you will take turns trying to raise and maintain the Shield while your partner throws curses at you.”

She settled herself into the teacher’s chair and watched, laughing, as students began to stagger about on jelly legs, itch uncontrollably and erupt in boils. Getting tired of the spectacle, she picked up the book she’d been reading on the train and lost herself in the description of the epic 1486 battle waged over the northern trade routes, between the wizard chieftains Cuthbert and Gregoire.

BANG!

Viviane shot up out of her chair, accompanied by a cacophony of shrieks and yells as a pile of entangled students fell over in a heap, the victims of several crossed curses gone wrong. Viviane ran over to try and sort out the students amidst accusations and a few thrown punches, but the hysterics of two girls nearby drowned out any rational attempt at explanation.

Looking up with a snarl of exasperation, she pointed her wand at them. “Petrificus totalis,” she snapped, and didn’t bother to watch them fall to the floor before returning to the mess in front of her. “All right, who’s got boils, and who is itching?” Viviane asked. “Itchers, in the corner, over there. Somebody work on reversing their curses. Boils, remain here, since you seem to be welded together.”

In the middle of the uproar a knock, at first unheard, got louder and then a tall form stalked into the room. "What is going on here? Who’s in charge? Where is the professor?" As his eyes slid from the pile of students still on the floor to the petrified forms of Lavendar Brown and Pansy Parkinson, his expression changing from disgust to incredulity.

Viviane stood up, surreptitiously wiping her hands on her robe, then extending one to him.

"Viviane Chance. I’ve just arrived to teach some extra Defense Against the Dark Arts classes."

Snape ignored Viviane’s hand and glared at her. "Do you teach according to the laws of chaos? Here at Hogwarts, we teach. We don’t romp."

Viviane studied the intruder and gave an involuntary shiver. A cold man, she thought. "I’m sorry, but I don’t know who you are." she said. "Where I come from, we don’t barge into classrooms."

"I am Professor Severus Snape." The man bit off his words angrily. "I teach Potions. Quietly."

Viviane blinked at him, mouth open. Severus Snape! She’d heard of him as the most talented Potions master in generations but never imagined him as this ascetic with attitude.

The retort that rose to her lips died there; the sense of being in strange territory made her hesitate. She straightened up, concentrated her gaze on his nose and said, "I apologize if we were too noisy. It won’t happen again." The Potions master made a noise between a huff and a snort, and abruptly left.

~*~*~

”What was Dumbledore thinking,” exclaimed Hermione, trying to resist scratching at her still-itchy arm, as soon as they were out of earshot. “Honestly, she has no idea how to teach. Did you see her reading instead of paying attention to our practice?"

“I was hoping she’d Petrify Snape. Or cut off his head, at least. Did you see that sword she has?” Harry said. “That’s an unusual thing for a Professor to wear.”

Ron shrugged. “I didn’t think class was so bad-“

Draco caught up with them. "Hey, Mudblood, I noticed you weren't even able to start summoning your shield. I guess real wizard skills are beyond you." Harry held Ron back as Hermione turned red.

"It was the first class. I was restraining myself, Malfoy. After all, I'd hate to humiliate you in every subject," she retorted as she continued walking. Harry and Ron stopped to laugh, as Malfoy turned abruptly down another hallway, and then they caught back up to Hermione.

"So you didn’t like class? I thought Professor Chance was all right. She said I have good balance and that shield spell is amazing!" Ron enthused.

"She looks, er powerful, all right, and we’d better be careful if we don’t want to end up Petrified. That was weird though, what she said about deciding how we’ll use our magical skills," said Harry, not able to get her exchange with Draco out of his mind.

" I think she's very odd. What is she doing, running around with a sword, and why do we need to learn balance? I don't want to work with dragons, or chase down Death Eaters! This is a school, not a sports academy!" Hermione sounded aggrieved, surprising the other two.

"You really didn't like the class?" Ron said. "Are you all right? Do you have a fever or something?"

"I'm going to the library. See you later," said Hermione stiffly and ran off, leaving Harry and Ron slightly puzzled.

~*~*~

Viviane threw open the door to her rooms and banged it behind her, then leaned against it, momentarily weak at the knees. She’d closed her eyes in relief at finally being alone, but after a moment slowly opened them, and glanced almost fearfully around the room that she had been assigned. It was, in spite of its size, a cozy place, with a desk in front of a three-sided window, and a capacious fireplace whose cherrywood mantle was carved with a motif of ravens and roses. Empty bookcases stretched away on either side.

She unbuckled her sword, propped it in a corner, then took a few tentative steps forward. Looking down in surprise, as her foot fell upon carpeting, she gave a start when she recognized the pattern. Water was flowing from overturned chalices, the magical silver threads glittering almost imperceptibly as they moved through the weave of the carpet and the pattern of intertwined dragons and lilies. Kneeling down, she ran her palms over the surface, then rubbed her face against it, inhaling the still strong scent of leather bindings, damp stone, and centuries of dripped wax. “Aquitaine,” she whispered, letting herself visualize for the first time in years the library of the school that no longer existed – the only sanctuary she had ever known.

The sight of a crate a few inches from her nose made her scramble back up. The house elves had unpacked and set out everything else she’d brought with her; the malachite inkstand and piles of eagle-feather quills were on the desk next to neat stacks of parchment. A landscape featuring a Loire valley chateau hung over the fireplace, and Viviane noticed with a laugh that it was currently in the midst of a violent storm. That always was a temperamental painting, she thought.

Through the doorway she could see a half-open armoire with her robes hanging in a neat row, sorted by color, and her blue silk dressing gown was laid out upon a magnificent four-poster bed. I’d forgotten how efficient house-elves are, she thought, as she turned her attention to the crates of books that she had forbidden anyone to touch. Resting her palms for a moment on a lid, she shivered. We were so panicked when these were last seen, so driven by fear, and the fear did not begin to match what happened…beyond imagination…

Carefully, Viviane removed the top of the crate and picked up a book, touching the cover with a tender gesture, then hugged it to her chest as she dropped onto the sofa. The room was quiet, with only the faint crackling of the fire to disturb the still air. I’m so used to living my life amidst a crowd, in small noisy rooms, constantly pushing and jostling for survival. How will I ever make my way amongst these learned, sheltered people? Since I’ve accepted Albus’ invitation, I must do the best I can, and they shall have to live with it.


So far, her stay at Hogwarts hadn't been promising. The woman who'd rushed her from the train to the classroom seemed unhostile but vaguely suspicious, and Professor Snape was definitely hostile and infinitely suspicious. And she had a distinct feeling that Petrifying students was frowned upon. She rested her chin on the top of the book and stared into the fire. This Professor Snape was not at all what she'd expected, after all the things she’d heard about him from the billywing smugglers. Not personable, as she thought a great teacher would be, not eloquent and certainly not happy about the teaching efforts of a half-educated witch. Viviane sighed and got up from the sofa to begin unpacking the books that had lain hidden for so many years.

~*~*~

After taking several wrong turns and getting momentarily trapped in a room full of amorous coat trees, Viviane found the Great Hall. One hand was still busy brushing splinters from her clothing, but the other dropped automatically to her sword hilt as she crossed the floor, past tables of students intent on breakfast and the last-minute completion of assignments. She slowed as she approached the faculty table, trying to catch Dumbledore’s eye for a clue as to where she should sit, but he was engaged in a lively conversation with a pretty witch in a turban. Glancing uneasily down the table, she saw the Professor who’d shown her to class smile and indicate an empty seat next to her. With a grin of relief, Viviane hastened over to take it.

“Good morning, Professor Chance,” Professor McGonagall greeted her. “Tea?”

“Is there any coffee? And perhaps a roll, or croissant?” Viviane asked, looking dubiously at the black and white pudding and sausages in front of her.

McGonagall picked up her unoccupied bread plate and muttered into it, then handed it to Viviane. “There are rolls next to Filius – Filius, could you pass those over here? The coffee will appear shortly, but I don’t know how drinkable it will be. The house-elves aren’t used to making it.”

“Oh, thank you, Professor-“

Her companion moved her head closer and spoke in a conspiratorial whisper. “Please, call me Minerva. We don’t stand on ceremony between faculty members. May I call you Viviane?”

“Please,” Viviane said, relieved. “No ceremony? Not even him?” She jerked her head towards Professor Snape, who was regarding them with an exceptionally sour look on his face.

Minerva began to cut up her sausage with short, precise strokes of her knife. “There are exceptions to everything, Viviane, and he embodies most of them.”

Viviane applied herself to shredding a roll. “As long as he’s an exception, I don’t mind.”

~*~*~

Harry was picking listlessly at his scrambled eggs, worry over Sirius Black and the upcoming Quidditch match competing with anger about being left behind for the trip to Hogsmeade. He wasn’t even paying attention to Ron and Hermione’s latest quarrel over Crookshanks when Ron broke off and elbowed him in the ribs.

"Look, there’s Professor Chance! She’s still wearing that sword. What does she expect, trolls at breakfast?" Harry, jolted out of his reverie, studied Professor Chance closely for the first time and realized that she looked less scary and a great deal tidier than he remembered. She had lots of dark, wavy hair that had been a mess yesterday but this morning was kept back in a loose bun with two jeweled, ebony sticks, and she had a figure that elicited a few appreciative murmurs from sixth-year Hufflepuffs at the next table. Her soft, moss green eyes currently looked benign, but Harry still retained the vivid memory of just how piercing they could be when trained on him. She wore tailored black robes of fine but well-worn material edged in velvet that contrasted oddly with her haughty features and informal manner.

As Harry turned to answer Ron, he heard Hermione offering her opinion of the new professor. "Well, her accent is a mixture of things, but mostly French, I think. She certainly has strange taste in jewelry - that serpent ring with the diamond fangs she's wearing is positively creepy."

"How old do you think she is?" wondered Harry.

"She seems, somehow, both older and younger than she looks," replied Hermione. "I don't know, I can't explain it, but-."

"You mean you haven't looked it up yet?" said Ron with an innocent air.

"Oh, do be quiet and finish your breakfast, otherwise you’ll be late for class again," said Hermione.

~*~*~

Viviane was staring morosely into a cup of lukewarm, watery coffee when she heard Professor McGonagall utter a ‘hem’ of disapproval. Looking up, she saw a thin witch swathed in floaty pastel robes and innumerable ropes of beads, peering at the room through an enormous pair of spectacles. “Who’s that,” whispered Viviane. “The proprietor of the local tea shop and dedicated customer of Wispy Wear, Limited?”

McGonagall cleared her throat. “Professor Trelawney has been entertaining us for years with the most amazing predictions, none of which-

Still standing in the doorway, Trelawney began to sway, her face set in an odd, faraway expression. "You!" she pointed at Viviane who scowled back. "You bring danger! Your inheritance cannot be refused! Where you go, danger follows!"

Viviane's face went white and she leapt to her feet, breathing through her nose and hissing slightly at Trelawney, as four tables of students and a table of teachers turned to stare. Her hand dropped to her sword, but before she could draw it out of its scabbard, Professor McGonagall’s hand clamped firmly onto her arm.

“That is, until now,” the Transfiguration Professor concluded. “There is no murder allowed before lunch, Viviane.”

Viviane tore her arm out of Professor McGonagalls grasp and pushed back her chair, sending it clattering away behind her. "There should be another rule about predictions over breakfast," she snarled, and stalked off the dais. The row of Ravenclaws she passed on her way out cowered against the table, and everyone watched, fascinated, the narrowing gap between the irate witch and the still-entranced Trelawney. Viviane was just over halfway there when Trelawney backed away and resumed walking to her rooms. The new Professor's snort of contempt echoed back across the Great Hall as she pointedly turned down the corridor opposite the one Trelawney had taken, and there was a few seconds of silence before everyone noisily resumed the meal.

~*~*~

As Ron and Harry left Lupin's class, they were still discussing Trelawney's prediction of the morning. "I wonder if Professor Chance could be a Death Eater? Is that what Trelawney is trying to tell Dumbledore?" queried Ron.

"No. Personally, I think Trelawney's just nuts," Harry replied, trying not to think about his recurring Grim and the Divination Professor’s insistence about his impending death. "Or right, for once." chimed in Hermione. "Not that Professor Trelawney would be missed, but I really think Professor Chance would have murdered her this morning, given the opportunity."

She stopped, embarrassed, as the subject of their speculations was heard shouting down the hall.

"Remus? Remus Lupin?"

Professor Lupin turned around, along with the rest of the students just leaving his class. Professor Chance stood at the end of the hall for a moment, before breaking into a run that turned into a slide, interrupted when he grabbed her and she staggered to a halt.

"Remus! Remus, you didn’t write….I didn’t know….I could kill you for not telling me that you’re here!" she exclaimed, then began to laugh as Professor Lupin swept her into a hug. “You look wonderful,” she continued, leaning back to cradle his face in her hands after planting a kiss on the tip of his nose. He released her from the hug and held her away from him, taking in every detail of her appearance.


"So do you, Viv. I always said you should have contacted Albus about teaching here, but you wouldn’t hear of it. What changed your mind?"

"Oh, I needed a rest," she replied. "Where were you during breakfast this morning?"

”Wouldn’t you like to know! Let’s sit down and start to catch up.” Professor Lupin led her by the arm into the teachers' lounge. Ron, Hermione and Harry looked at each other in bafflement. "Now I don't know what to think," said Hermione. "That's a first," Ron couldn't help remarking.

~*~*~

“Strawberry?” Remus asked, offering Viviane the bowl of fruit.

“Thanks. Rook!” she exclaimed, picking up the piece she had captured and taking a long sip of wine.

Remus sat back to consider his next move. "So you've got Slytherin and Gryffindor in your third year class. Have fun - they don't like each other much. Usually Dumbledore doesn’t combine Houses in Defense classes," he murmured, a little sleepy from dinner.

"Thanks for the moral support, Remus. There, I think you have my knight. I guess my classes are exceptions, since they’re additions to the schedule and yes, my fourth year class is Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, and there's a lot less tension. So what's up with Draco Malfoy? Is he spawn of Lucius?"

"Yes. Nasty kid, all told. He and Harry Potter are sworn enemies. You might want to keep them away from each other in class. Your turn."

"Well, who wouldn't be nasty, with a father like that? But I'll keep an eye on them - Harry seems like a level-headed kid, especially after losing both of his parents and then being thrust into the wizard world with little notice. And by the way, Professor Snape is quite unhappy with me. He gave me a little lecture on Hogwarts teaching methods."

"Ah, Severus," Lupin said. "Don't worry, he treats everybody pretty much the same way. I think you've given the students something to think about though. They seem nervous, but excited about your class."

"I'm a bit of a culture shock for them, am I?" Viviane laughed.

"A bit. Most of us don’t stalk around Hogwarts armed with swords. Trelawney's performance this morning didn't help, although nobody takes her too seriously here - but with Sirius Black on the loose everybody's jumpy."

Viviane dropped her gaze to the board, picking up a pawn to twirl between her fingers. “You say his name quite casually, now. What did it take for you to learn that?”

Remus captured her hand and returned the pawn to the chessboard. “Time, mostly. Some effort. Viviane, what about you? What is this inheritance Trelawney mentioned? You’ve never told me, even after ten years of friendship, about your youth…your family.”

Viviane sighed in exasperation. "Remus, how on earth do you cope with all of this? Horrible coffee, tons of students, house rivalries, unsettling predictions at breakfast, Harry Potter, Sirius Black...I'll never get it straight! And I only teach four classes! How do the rest of you do it? Hey, I needed that bishop."

Lupin laughed. "You haven’t lost your gift for evasion. Viv, the rest of us haven't been knocking around the world, picking up arcane sets of magical skills! Don't worry, you'll be fine. And I'm afraid you might have to brew your own coffee - the house elves are used to making tea."

Viviane grinned at him. “That won’t be the first time. I’ll have to rummage out that coffeepot I used when we were living in Shipley.”

~*~*~

Next morning, Viviane was well into a muffin when the usual flock of owls arrived with messages. All of a sudden the normal deliveries were disrupted when the owls took fright and scattered, hooting madly and dropping letters and packages pell-mell onto random tables as students shrieked and tried to avoid the postal missiles and crashing tableware. Viviane caught sight of a wheeling figure with fierce eyes and extended claws. She stood up and exclaimed "Malhereuse! Malhereuse! Come down here! Stop it!"

The peregrine falcon circled one last time around the room, and then settled on Viviane's shoulder, where she'd thrown some napkins as a landing pad. Students began to cautiously poke their heads out from under tables or roll out from underneath benches, where they'd taken shelter. McGonagall and Flitwick were bug-eyed from shock, Snape was furiously picking bacon off of his robes, Dumbledore looked amused, and Lupin was laughing so hard that he was choking.

Viviane, utterly mortified, surveyed the devastated hall and looked at Dumbledore out of the corner of her eye. He met her perturbed glance with a cheerful "My dear, you have a lovely falcon! Malhereuse is his name?" Dumbledore extended an oatmeal-splattered arm, and the falcon tentatively climbed onto it. "Lovely!" said Dumbledore, peering at the bird. "Perhaps you should arrange to meet on the terrace from now on?"

"Of course, Albus. I didn't realize the owls would take such fright." Viviane began to wonder if she'd ever get through a breakfast at Hogwarts.

 

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