There would be no more Slug Club, that was for damned sure.
No currying favor for better grades, better connections, a better life. No trading on fame or money allowed.
Which, of course, wasn’t to say he would be a completely impartial instructor. No such thing. Merlin knows McGonagall could never be accused of fair-play when Gryffindor was involved. Flitwick was a bit better on that score, as was Sprout, but then, Ravenclaws were far too independent to be troubled by anything so tawdry as a house rivalry and Hufflepuffs were, well, Hufflepuffs. Bless them.
But change in Slytherin House was long overdue. So much ambition left unchecked for so long had led to a distinctly Goldingesque atmosphere, not to mention a general tendency toward moral relativism and political conservatism had blossomed into outright blood supremacy and casual dark magic use.
And then there were the Death Eaters.
No, that needed to be checked, and quickly. Certainly before the progeny of his erstwhile housemates reached his door.
Showing outright favoritism to his own house might provide young Slytherins with enough sense of superiority to leave the blood purity nonsense alone for a few years. Long enough for him to get the students’ individual measure and work on steering them toward more productive endeavors.
As for the rest, well, time would tell. He wasn’t so arrogant he thought all other wizards and witches incapable of understanding theory, innovation, or dedication.
But all things being equal, he didn’t think it bloody likely. Most were content to follow Slughorn’s directions, churn out the textbook, sub-par potions, collect their E’s and O’s, sit their NEWTs and go out in the world to brew infrequently and with limited and sporadic success. It wasn’t a glamorous subject. Noxious fumes and slimy ingredients were part and parcel of the discipline.
But it could be beautiful in it’s rawness. No other branch of magic, save perhaps for runes, was as old or as unchanged as potions. Potions predated wand use. Predated Latinate spells. Whether there was another war among Wizards as Dumbledore suspected, or the muggles managed to nuke everything to hell, potions would be still be there. Subtle, endlessly adaptable, constant.
Anyway, if a Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, or even Hufflepuff managed to grasp all that, they’d get the grade they deserved and a letter of recommendation to the employer of their choosing.
If not, well, there would be no buying his favor.
And as it happened, things turned out both better and worse than he expected.
Rather than continue teaching the older years as had been discussed initially, Slughorn chose to retire outright. Which meant teaching students who remembered his student days. Vividly. For them, there was little he could provide in terms of discipline apart from his assurance that he could and would fail them and had no qualms taking house points and handing out detentions by the hundreds. In the first week, his voice cracked. After that he just accepted the sixth-year Ravenclaws were a complete write-off.
But gradually, he won over the Slytherins. And with them, their rivals, eager to best them on a level playing field. He developed and refined his speeches. Added a higher collar and longer sleeves to his robes after the first few misguided student overtures. They learned quickly that words like mudblood were strictly forbidden. They learned the sort of crude flattery that worked with Slughorn had no place in the new, more dignified Slytherin House.
He sent his first and only three letters of recommendation that first year with pride. McGonagall scowled at him across the staff room table as she wrote out scores of her own. But each student, two Ravenclaws and a Slytherin, had fully earned his recommendation. An opinion, it might be said, fully shared by the Ministry of Magic and St. Mungo’s who hired them outright. The following year, there were five.
The year his first group of first-years left Hogwarts, he wrote twenty-one letters of recommendation for students across all four houses. All earned their Potions NEWTs, most with Outstandings.
From then on, the number stayed close to twenty students each year.
Sometimes there were letters. Thank you, Professor Snape, they said. There were no bags of candied pineapple. No tickets to quidditch matches. No invitations to dine with heads of state or influential patent holders. But they were signed, Healer. Auror. Unspeakable. Apothecary. Each one in some small part a success in which he shared.
He saved every letter.
He wrote his last letters of recommendation two years after he last held the post of Potions Master for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. They were discovered in a locked drawer in the Headmaster’s desk, several weeks after he drew his last breath on the floor of the Shrieking Shack.
In his customary, spiky handwriting, each was addressed.
Each was commended for their bravery, their ingenuity, and their perseverance through war. It was suggested each could be relied upon to excel in the endeavor of their choosing.
Each was signed,