It’s the end of the first week of term, and the beginning of my fifteenth year as a Hogwarts teacher. I’ll turn thirty-five in less than a month. I don’t feel old at all, but I do feel older, especially when I look at my students. It was hard to realize that I was growing apart from them, culturally; that their childhoods are now so different from mine that I could no longer address them from a place of shared experience.
Some parts of wizarding culture, like The Tales of Beedle the Bard, will always be part of wizard childhoods, but my students now come into the classroom having read books I’ve never heard of and listened to musicians whose names I don’t know. Plus television, of course, if they’re students from Muggle families. We didn’t own a television when I was growing up; almost nobody did. Now everybody does, and my students from Muggle families talk constantly about Doctor Who.
They also talk about this mysterious person—or group of people, I’m not quite sure—who keeps killing Muggles. The students from wizarding families have read about it in the papers, and the students from Muggle families have read about it in their papers, and the talk in the Great Hall at dinner is that it must be the same person. Or group of people. They leave a sign behind them; a skull on top of a snake.
Some of the students are frightened, especially the younger ones. They want to know if the murderer can get inside Hogwarts, or—if they have Muggle parents—if their families will be safe while they’re away. I came across a fifth-year Slytherin trying to scare a first-year Ravenclaw, telling some story about the murderer being a former Hogwarts student who wants revenge, and I found myself standing up very straight in my robes, looking strictly down on the older student, and declaring that no murderer could get through Hogwarts’ protective spells. The older student flinched, ashamed at having been caught by a teacher. I deducted ten points from Slytherin as punishment, and gave five points to the Ravenclaw student for being brave. He wasn’t being particularly brave at the moment, but I’ve learned that if you tell students they can be brave—or clever, or talented—they’ll believe it of themselves as well.
So yes, most of the talk this first week of term has been about these unusual murders. Professor Dumbledore has asked me if I would join him at a meeting tonight to discuss this situation in more detail. I’m imagining he’s going to tell the faculty how to address students’ fears, or how to reassure their parents that they’ll be safe at Hogwarts. I hope the people behind all of this will be caught soon, so that life can go back to normal.