Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dumbledore's Night Out

“Excuse me, Minerva, but I shall need to take my leave of the castle this evening.” The Headmaster was swirling an ornate cloak of deep blue decorated with the constellations around his shoulders as he spoke, “Won’t be too long but I may be out until dawn. You’ll be Acting Headmistress in my absence.”

Minerva McGonagall pursed her lips but didn’t say anything as she watched the headmaster descend the staircase towards the ornate carriage waiting before the main gate of the castle. He opened the heavy oaken doors and paused then to meet her gaze.

“It won’t be a bother, will it?” His words echoed in the empty chamber.

“Not at all Headmaster.” She curtsied smartly. “We will eagerly await your return.”

“Good, good. Poor Snape. He’ll be heartbroken to hear I’ve left you in charge.” Dumbledore said with a twinkle in his eye as he disappeared behind the door. “Hope you have a peaceful night, Minerva.”

The water gushed out of the tap, filling the tub as steam rose above the surface of the water and moved ghost like among the thick bubbles forming on top.

The kettle whistled loudly on the stove.

Pavarotti was crescendoing on the record player as the golden needled moved over the ebony disc, sending operatic notes soaring over the cozy room lit by the crackling fire in the hearth.

Minerva McGonagall stopped the water when the tub was full with a mountain of bubbles. She took the kettle off and poured herself a steaming cup of delicious herbal tea, with a piece of honeycomb dissolving deep in it’s dark golden recesses. And she turned the opera music down a bit and slid into the overstuffed chair next to the blazing hearth. And then Minerva McGonagall reached for the book next to her.


“My word! Who can that be at this hour of the night.” She said, standing and quickly putting the book down on the seat and covering it with a shawl.


“Mr Filch!” She stared down at him from over the top of her halfmoon spectacles as she swung the door open, “The castle had better be on fire for disturbing me!”

The man simply stood before her paralyzed, his mouth hanging open stupidly, stammering the same syllable over and over again. It was then that she realized that she was only wearing a dressing gown and a pair of slippers and had her hair all up in curls.

“Well, if you have no better reason for disturbing me other than the fact that you are a complete idiot!” She said, pulling her dressing gown tight above her cleavage, “I suggest that you go be a fool on someone else’s doorstep. Professor Snape’s for example.”

“No, er, marm.” He said blinking a few more times, “I er, that is, sorry marm, I just never knew you had a pair o’–– that is, there’s something fishy going on marm. It’s Professor Trelawney marm.”

“Oh dear.” Minerva McGonagall shook her head, “I’d better come take a look then.”

The acting headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry walked briskly through the winding passageways and torchlit tunnels of the massive castle, following the small, bent, haggard man in front of her. She made sure to keep her nightgown clasped tightly at her neck, while using her other hand to adjust the curlers in her iron grey hair. Her bright pink fluffy slippers made a slight squeaking noise as she walked. They had been a gift from Albus and though she hated the things she could not deny that they were the most comfortable and warm slippers she had ever known. It was rumored that Albus had a matching pair himself that he wore while he sat behind his desk in his study.

“Here we are.” Filch said bending down to meet the mangy cat at the stairwell.

“Well, I see Mrs. Norris but where is Sybill?” McGonagall’s foot was tapping impatiently, sending a rapid tattoo of pink squeaks down the stairs.

“She’s coming up through this passage right now.” Filch licked his lips hungerly,“You know in the old days we’d hang not only students up for breaking rules, but teachers too.”

“Well, that is fascinating Mr. Filch but I believe I heard that the lower boys bathroom has been clogged again. A rapid, feces multiplication charm, it would appear.” She said pointedly.

“Awe, marm, can’t you, you know, maybe help me out, since it is a charm an all.” Filch whined as he stood up from petting the cat.

“No.” McGonagall’s glare was daggers. “I really can’t. Thank you, Mr. Filch.”

And as Filch disappeared down the hallway, the statue behind Minerva began to swing outward. And then stopped. From the crack in the darkness a faint, frightened voice asked urgently, “Who’s there?”

“Sybil, is that you?” McGonagall tried to peer through the crack between the statue and the wall but there was no answer, “Come now, Sybil what’s all this then? Why are you out this hour of the night. Shouldn’t you be in bed?”

“No. No it isn’t me. It is... someone else.” The Divination teacher choked lamely.

“Oh, come Sybil, don’t be like that.” McGonagall felt her temper flare as she swung her wand and sent the statue flying to the side, revealing a very frightened Sybil Trelawney clutching a brown paper bag to her chest, with a crate magically hovering behind her, full of bottles of Butterbeer. “Professor Trelawney! How dare you!”

“Please. Please.” Sybil fell to her knees, almost dropping the brown bag she carried clutched to her chest, “Please, Minerva. Don’t. Don’t take it away.”

“Sybil! You are a Professor of Hogwarts!” Minerva McGonagall rose up to her full height, aided by her head of curlers, to peer down at the poor Divination Professor. “I had heard that you’ve had a bit of trouble with cooking sherry and the like but I never thought the day would come you’d turn drunkard. And here! On these sacred grounds of all places!”

“Please, McGonagall.” She was on the verge of tears. “I have to. I need to. Please don’t.”

“Well, I am sorry, Sybil.” Minerva glared down over her glasses and then her eyes softened, “Very well. Take your... purchases to your room and have a care that none of the students see you. But be warned...”

Sybil swallowed as the glowing end of the wand was inches from her neck, “If I should see you displaying public drunkenness or if I should think for one moment that this... problem of yours.... is placing any of the students at harm... I will not only report you to the Headmaster, Sybil, but I will sober you up myself in a most painful and immediate way!”

“Th-th-thank you, Acting Headmistress.” Sybil gulped dryly and then she disappeared up the staircase leading to her chambers, the line of cases of butterbeer clamouring behind her as they followed her up.

“Now, where was I.” McGonagall sent the statue crashing back into place with a quick flip of her wand.
The water in the tub was still pleasantly warm, even if it did not steam as much as it did before and if there were noticeably less bubbles floating above it.

The honey had dissolved completely and the tea had also turned a bit shy of lukewarm.

The record was scratching at its end, and Minerva had to turn the needle to begin Pavarotti’s aria over again. As she did she picked up her book, took her cup of tea, and walked into the bathroom. She peeled the robe and nightgown off and slid her tired body into the water until only her head and arms were visible. In one hand she held the book, in the other the cup of tea, leaning her head back against the edge of the tub.

“Hmmm, delicious.” She said to herself as she sipped the honey tea. “Would be even better if it were a strong glass of spiced mead, but honey tea isn’t the worst substitute for honey wine.”

And she took another sip.


“If that is Filch again...” Minerva McGonagall knew enough drying spells to have her back in her nightgown and robe and slippers and back at the door just as the second round of knocks began.


“Oh, er, ello marm.” It was indeed Filch again.

“What is it this time, Mr Filch.” McGonagall was resisting as hard as she could the urge to turn the rat faced man into an actual rat. “And it had better not be another waste of my time like last time. And those boys bathrooms had better be taken care of.”

“Oh, er, it is marm.” And then as if the logic centers of his brain took some time to catch up with his mouth he stammered, “That is. No it isn’t. That is to say. I have reason to believe a certain young man will be sneaking out of quarters tonight to be with a certain young lady, marm. To perform certain activities of a nocturnal nature.”

“What!” And McGonagall did not even attempt to stop her slippers form squeaking this time as she stormed down the hallway, “This is an outrage! Hogwarts would never live down the notoriety if a student returned home in a compromised state! Where is this meeting to take place, Mr. Filch?!”

“Well, as I understand it, the young lady is to meet the gentleman in the second floor corridor at half past eleven, marm.” He spoke with a snicker.

“Mr Filch, I shall go see to this.” McGonagall turned red-faced as she walked towards the passage that led to the second floor corridor. “And Mr. Filch, while I applaud your attempt to comb your hair, next time, start with a bath first.”

And she left the blushing Filch standing in the warm light of her doorway.
“What if someone catches us?” His voice echoed up the darkness of the stairs.

“It’s a risk we have to take. When else could we do this?” Her voice demanded pleasantly, “Besides, you worry too much.”

“Well, I guess I’m ready if you are.” He spoke and his voice echoed up the walls of the long corridor.

Minerva stopped as she heard the voice. It was very familiar. Probably one of her transfiguration students. Possibly someone in her house. She felt the anger inside leap and the wall sconces around her flicked to light as she stood before them, hands on her hips. Then her mouth fell open and her eyes nearly popped out of her head. Their faces matched her own.

“Professor Flitwick!” She gaped and stammered moving from one to the other, “Professor Sprout! I am shocked!”

“I’m, er, sure, not as much as we are.” Flitwick said morosely. “Hello, Minerva.”

The two Professors were standing with their arms around each other, a bouquet of roses on the ground behind them. They were iridescent roses, Minerva’s personal favorite. Knowing Flitwick he’d probably heard her mention them and had misremembered them as Sprout’s favorite instead.

“Well, in all my years!” Minerva found her steam again and recovered quickly, “I have never heard of a Hogwarts Professor–– two Hogwarts Professors!–– and in the second floor corridor of all places! Have you no shame!”

The blush on Sprout and Flitwick’s cheeks could not compare to the crimson Minvera McGonagall’s cheeks were flushed as she stammered for words, and finding exactly the words, to describe the activities of the second floor corridor, “This is–– That is to say–– as Professors of Hogwarts I would expect you two to be preventing such–– hankypanky–– between students! Not setting some sort of example of–– of–– styles and methods!”

“McGonagall, please! We were just––” Sprout blurted but Flitwick interrupted her, “Our apologies, Acting Headmistress. Go ahead and report us to the Headmaster when he returns. You are right, we should have acted our ages.”

“Indeed you should have. I suggest you both return to bed.” And as they turned to leave she coughed and said blushing, “Your own beds, I should emphasize.”

And the two disappeared down different corridors off the main corridor. The flowers that had previously been on the ground had been secreted away with the two retreating lovers.
Minerva McGonagall was on her way back to her room when she turned a corner and bumped into Professor Severus Snape. The man with the sallow face and oily black hair that hung in curtains on either side of his face snarled at her before forcing a smile and giving a small mock bow.

“Evening, Acting Headmistress.” He shot venom towards her with his eyes.

“Severus! What are you doing wandering the hallways this time of night.” Her eyes returned the mutual hatred.

“I should ask you the same thing, Acting Headmistress.” He snapped each syllable as he spoke them.

“I happened to be attending to important Hogwarts business that is none of your concern, Severus!” She snapped and glared at him over the tops of her halfmoon spectacles in a way that would make weaker men soil themselves, “You still have yet to answer my question.”

“I set alarm enchantments around my storeroom.” Severus glared down at the floor as if being forced to reveal some terrible secret against his will, “I’ve been missing things from my storeroom ever since that Potter boy started here. I’m sure he’s stealing it. I went to check on it.”

“And pray, did you find what you were looking for?” McGonagall snapped back.

“Unfortunately it appears my alarm enchantments were mistaken.” Severus said with a mock bow, “Now, as much as I love our little chats, Minerva, I really must be off to bed. We can’t all wander around the halls of Hogwarts aimlessly at night. Some of us actually have classes to teach. Teach something of worth that is.”

And he turned to walk away from her and had gone a good distance down the hallway before he heard her call out to him, without turning to face his departure, “Oh, before I forget, Severus, before you return to your quarters, could you please put Mr. Longbottom down. He should get a good night’s sleep before his insightful classes with you in the morning. Wouldn’t you agree, Longbottom?”

“Yes, Professor.” Neville’s small voice echoed from the deep darkness far above the two professors. “Thank you, Professor.”

“And then you can run along Professor Snape.” She smiled coyly at him as he stomped away frustratedly, the sound of Neville’s whimpers following along in the darkness above.
By the time Minerva McGonagall was back in her room the record of Pavarotti was scratching noisily again. The candles were dripping wax on her rugs, the fire was burning low and red. Her tea had gone cold and she knew the bath water would be lukewarm at best. She raised her hand and was ready to return it all to the state she had found it in, but then sighed as she lowered her wand and her head. Odds were, the second she had heated everything back and was just getting comfortable there would be another knock on her door.

Instead, she picked up her book and slid off her robe, slipping her slippers off. She adjusted her nightgown and got in beneath the covers of her thick down blanket. She picked up her book and readied herself to disappear into the world of the written word. Then she remembered something and laid the book down and reached into her side drawer, withdrawing a small pot with a screw-on lid. She opened and proceeded to cover her face in the neon green paste smelled faintly of spice and roses. Then she picked her book up and began reading again.

She had not even come to the end of the first page when...


“Oh, for the love of all––” And she slammed the book shut, and then slammed the book down on the side table, threw the covers back, swung her legs over the side right into the slippers, squeaked over to the door with such furor that squeaking has never sounded so frightening, and then threw her robe over her shoulders as she flung the door open with one motion, glaring down at the little man cowering in the pool of light coming from her room, “WHAT NOW!”

“I-I-I.” The little man’s eyes were bulging out of his head, “That is, a-a-a matter has arisen in the Great Hall.”

“Oh, has it now!” She stepped out, slamming the door and causing the wall scones to flutter. “Which Professor is it this time, pray tell! It isn’t Madam Hooch or Professor Lockeheart this time is it! Or perhaps Madam Pomfrey is selling opium to students now!”

“N-n-no it’s nothin’ like” But he got no further as she marched down the corridor.

“I don’t care what it is like! I swear if I catch one more Professor of Hogwarts in a compromising situation I’m going to––” But as she came to the great doors of the main hall, Filch tried to step in front of her. “Mr Flinch. Move!”

“Well, it’s just. Professor. You may want to.” But he got no further as she flung him aside with a flip of her wand and then proceeded to smash the doors open, dust rising into the air. She stepped inside and readied herself for the worst.

What she did not ready herself for was the chorus of voices.


And suddenly the room was transformed and bright lights shone everywhere, streamers and balloons and flowers were everywhere. And so were all her students and colleagues. They all looked at her with shock on their faces and suddenly she became very aware of her state of dress and her face. She turned on the spot and swished her wand and she was standing before them in her usual somber black dress with her hair piled neatly on her head in a tight bun, her face stern and taught without so much as a green smudge.

“Minerva, I must say, you do know how to make quite an entrance.” Dumbledore said as he stepped out from the crowd towards her, “I do hope you will forgive me for not telling you but Potter said it should be so much better for you as a surprise, and I quite agree.”

“Potter?” Minerva gasped overwhelmed as the boy appeared next to them.

“Well, when Professor Dumbledore told me that it was your birthday I thought we could make it special for you. You know. As a way of saying thank you. You now. For everything with Quidditch and everything.” And the boy stammered as he toed the ground nervously.

“Thank you, Potter that was very sweet.” She said casting a meaningful glance towards Dumbledore. “If misguided.”

“Oh, come now, Minerva, have a glass of spiced mead. I sent Sybil to get some of your favorite.” He handed her a glass full of amber gold liquid.

“Sybil?” And she gave a small laugh, “And I thought the poor dear was turning to drink.”

“Of course you did.” Sybil said dreamily as she circled by, “I foresaw that.”

“Right.” She said taking the glass from Dumbledore and feeling her instincts kick in looking up, “Longbottom! What are you still doing floating on the ceiling!”

“Ah, yes, I believe Neville and Severus were in charge of the decorating committee.” Dumbledore’s eyes were half-moons of mirth at some private joke.

“Well, that would explain the reason the streamers are black and all set so––” But she simply shook her head before continuing. “And I suppose Sprout and Flitwick were only busy getting flowers for me.”

“As a matter of fact, yes they were.” Dumbledore produced a bouquet of the iridescent roses. “These are for you.”

“Well, thank you Albus but you really shouldn’t have troubled yourself.” She said taking the bouquet in her free hand, “I mean, keeping the children up at such hours of the night.”

“Ah yes, I had almost forgotten.” And here Albus turned and tapped a somewhat rotund man on the shoulder, “Minerva, I’d like you to meet an old friend of mine. I believe you are a fan of his music. Signore Pavarotti, this is the woman I was telling you about.”

“P-P-Pavarotti!” And a crimson blush spread across Minerva’s cheeks.

“Signora.” he said and bowed, kissing her bouquet holding hand. “It is a pleasure.”

“Oh, well.” And she blushed even further, touching up her hair, “I, er, the pleasure is all mine.”

“Our friend here has agreed to give us a small performance tonight. If its not too late for such things, of course.” Dumbledore’s eyes gleamed wickedly.

“Oh, very well.” She said, giving a small smile and taking a sip of the honey wine, “I guess I could be persuaded to listen to a song while I finish my drink.”

And so she sat down next to the headmaster and Filch who had somehow managed to find his way into the seat next to her, smelling suspiciously of cologne. The music began and as the wine warmed her and the music of Pavarotti washed over her, she did not even mind that the two Slytherin boys behind her were giggling and pointing at the last remnant of a curler in her hair or that Sprout and Flitwick were sneaking out of the side door, fingers interlaced. For a moment, she simply relaxed and enjoyed the music and the warm glow that she was among people who cared so much for her.

“Happy Birthday, Minerva.” Dumbledore whispered softly as the next song began.

“Yes.” She whispered back, a tear on her cheek, “It has been a happy birthday. Thank you Dumbledore. Sometime I don’t know what I would ever do without you.”

No comments:

Post a Comment