Differences of Opinion
The First Shot from the Catapult Against the Monstrous
Regiment of Shipfics.
by Calanthe Borrible.
Note: It’s a shipsinker…take a
wild guess which ship. If you don’t think you can cope, please don’t read.
With thanks to Lady Alys Vorpatril for a certain
bit of advice that a certain character would do well to follow…
Part I: Behaviour Management.
Professor, there’s no need to shout—’
screamed. Minerva lunged through the portrait hole with her skirts around her
knees, dove into the Common Room—then flung herself hastily against the wall,
her skirts billowing on a howling wind. A torch shot past her nose, streaming
fire; glass splintered. She groped for her wand. Tapestry tangled and rent,
tumbled in rags through the air and plastered itself across the walls. Flames
surged out of the hearth. A hoarse voice bellowed, ‘Furunculus!’ and
sickly green light shot out of a storm of parchment, caught in the wind,
rocketed off stone—
mouth pinched into a tight line; she clamped a hand to her hat and stepped
forward, and thrust her wand into the wind.
Light careered off a tooth of glass, and vanished.
For a moment there was silence, drifting, smoke-filled: then the carpet heaved
violently in mid-air, plummeted to the floor; a table plunged down and
splintered on stone; tapestry rags slid into heaps against the walls.
Something whistled overhead; Minerva ducked smartly aside as a candelabrum
thumped onto a heap of carpet and candles went flying, trailing smoke.
Parchment and books, torn pages, quills and scraps of wool drifted down.
Slowly, through the mess, Minerva made out two shapes. One was tall,
red-haired, tangled in the battered remnants of a school robe; he staggered as
his legs grew slowly firm under him, his teeth shrank and his face drained of
its brilliant yellow tint. The other shape was short and stocky, wild-eyed,
gasping for breath as a writhing nest of snakes restored itself inch by inch into
Minerva’s chest swelled with a furious breath. ‘Miss
Granger! Mr Weasley! Would one of you care to explain what precisely
has been going on here?’
Through the last sinking scraps and feathers, two
faces snapped toward her, one mauve, the other sallow as wax. For a moment
they wore identical expressions of shock; then Ronald’s jaw bunched mutinously,
and Hermione’s mouth pinched tight.
Ronald looked away. Hermione’s eyes flinched shut;
her hair gave one last limp billow around her temples and slithered down over
her face. She stood rigid. The sound of her breath rang loud in the silence.
Minerva’s eyes narrowed. At the edge of her sight,
pale faces peered out of the shadows of the stairwells. A fold of carpet
heaved, and a small fair shape struggled out from under a chair back and
flopped to the floor. Lavender Brown edged out from amidst knots of curtain,
blood streaking down her cheek; behind her, two small shapes huddled warily
against the crazed window. And still, no reply. Minerva pressed her lips
‘I see,’ she said tightly. ‘Very well. Your wands,
if you please.’
a moment, neither of them moved. Then, slowly, Hermione’s hand lifted. She
reversed her wand along her forearm, held it out hilt-first; Minerva picked up
her skirts and stepped carefully over the heaps of carpet, twitched it from the
girl’s fingers. She swung around to Ronald with it poised between her hands.
shoved his wand toward her without meeting her eyes; she stalked across and
whipped it out of his hand, and spun on her heel. ‘Miss Proctor!’
Prefect started, paled, slithered cautiously out of the portrait hole. ‘Yes,
take Miss Brown and Mr Creevey, and anyone else who has sustained an injury, to
the hospital wing immediately.’ Hermione’s eyes widened, and her hands flew to
her mouth. Ronald’s face drained of blood in an instant. Minerva’s lips
compressed in sour satisfaction; as Elizabeth Proctor began to clamber over
piles of carpet toward Dennis Creevey, she raised her voice to carry to the
stairwells. ‘I shall speak to the house-elves; a room in the East Gallery will
be set up to serve as the House Common Room until this ruin can be repaired.
For now, Prefects, please see that all students stay in their dormitories until
tomorrow morning—and somebody had better stay down to make sure the Quidditch
team don’t get a nasty surprise when they get in from practice.’ She turned
back to the portrait hole. ‘Professor Flitwick!’
poked his head over the rim of the hole. ‘Professor McGonagall?’ His eyes
darted around the room. His bushy eyebrows shot up; then, unexpectedly, his
lips quivered sharply, and he clapped a hand to his mouth. Minerva’s brows
snapped together. She drew in her chin, drummed her fingers on the confiscated
wands, and Filius rearranged his face into shocked lines.
you would be so kind as to take charge of Mr Weasley?’
Filius achieved a respectable stern frown, bent it on Ronald beckoned. After a
moment, Ronald stalked toward the portrait hole, colour high in his face, his
back defiantly stiff.
swung around. ‘Miss Granger…’ Hermione’s chin went up, but her eyes squeezed
shut. Minerva folded her arms over her chest. ‘My office. Now.’
Miss Granger. Have you entirely taken leave of your senses?’ Flame
stretched behind the curve of glass; light swelled warmly out from the lamp,
over her desk and the scatter of half-marked essays to the tatterdemalion shape
beyond it. Minerva’s fingers tightened over her knuckles. Her eyes narrowed
to slits. Her mouth compressed into a white line. ‘Well?’
The flame crackled faintly. Breath hissed through
the girl’s nose.
see.’ Minerva stood up sharply, shoved her chair back and swung away; then,
abruptly, she wheeled back, skirts hissing around her. ‘I have never been more
disappointed in one of my students.’ The words sat in her mouth like shards of
glass. ‘You, of all people! I expected better of you, Miss Granger. You are
a Prefect; you are supposed to set an example for the younger students. A positive
chin dropped. Limp tangles of hair slithered forward over her face. From
behind them, there was a sound like a sniff.
sniff. ‘I—I’m sorry, Professor—’
is hardly going to mend matters now, Miss Granger! Sixty points will be taken
from Gryffindor for your disgraceful behaviour—the same penalty will be applied
to Mr Weasley, if he proves to deserve it,’ she added tartly as
Hermione’s head jolted up. ‘As to the rest—you and Mr Weasley will report to
me here tomorrow morning, immediately after breakfast, when I will give you
both your wands back and inform you of your full punishment. Is that
Hermione shut her mouth, and looked down. ‘Yes,
Professor McGonagall.’ Her voice cracked on the words; the last syllable was
barely a sound.
‘Very well. Now take yourself back to your
dormitory. Go on!’ she snapped, but Hermione stayed where she was, arms clamped
over her waist.
She arched an eyebrow hardly. ‘Well?’
Grey eyes flicked up behind limp tangled hair, fell
again. ‘Could I—go to the hospital wing, please?’ The girl’s voice was a
thread. ‘I don’t—I don’t feel very well.’
Minerva shot her a disgusted look. ‘I’m not sure
you deserve such consideration, Miss Granger—’ Then her eyes narrowed. She
came slowly around the corner of the desk, peered down through mousy hair and
shadows. In the lamplight Hermione’s skin was the colour of tallow; there were
heavy shadows under her eyes, and her hair lay in limp knots against her
skull. Minerva flipped the damp fringe aside, pressed the back of her fingers
to Hermione’s forehead. The girl flinched at the touch; her skin was clammy and
cold, and she was shivering. Minerva’s brows drew into a frown. She stepped
‘Can you manage alone?’
Hermione ducked her head, and Minerva heard a tiny
‘Off you go, then. Quickly!’
For a moment the girl stayed where she stood; then
she said quietly, clearly, ‘Thank you—’ and backed away. The door swung shut
on her heels. Minerva pinched her fingertips hard on the bridge of her nose;
when the shadows and light were still again, she drew a deep breath and crossed
to the empty fireplace, reached into her little gilt jar and scattered a pinch
of Floo powder over ash. Flames flared green-edged under her hand.
‘Professor Flitwick!’ she called into the dark arch
After a moment the fire’s voice crackled and echoed
into words. ‘Professor McGonagall. Please come through!’
She gathered her skirts close around her calves and
stepped into the fireplace. The flames whirled around her. Faintly, through a
haze of green, she began to see shapes: stacks of parchment and towers of
books, odd old instruments in brass and iron, a gangling boy with his brows
down and his mouth clamped tight on words, a shock of white hair and bristling
eyebrows behind a hedge of scrolls…
The flames sank. She stepped out of the fireplace
and shook out her skirts, and lifted her chin. Globes of charmed light swirled
around the tip of her hat. ‘And what does Mr Weasley have to say for himself,
Above the wall of parchment, Filius’ eyes gleamed.
He rubbed a finger over his lips; Minerva primmed up her mouth reprovingly, and
Filius summoned a poker face and recited, ‘It’s not fair, it was all her fault,
and she should keep her cat under better control.’
‘I see.’ Her chest heaved with a tight breath. She
turned on her heel and snapped, ‘Sixty points from Gryffindor, Mr Weasley, and
you are to report to my office tomorrow morning, immediately after breakfast.
Do you understand?’
Ronald gave a grudging nod.
‘Good. Now go back to your dormitory. I am
extremely disappointed in you, Mr Weasley…’
His face drew into a sullen scowl, and he stalked
for the door silently. Minerva watched him go; then as the door thumped to
behind him, she swung back to Filius and planted her hands on her hips, and
said explosively, ‘Well!’
The last shreds of gravity vanished from the little
Professor’s face, and he leaned back in his seat and crowed. ‘Oh dear,’ he
gasped, and flapped a hand at her, ‘oh dear, I suppose we should have seen
something like this coming—considering those two—but—’
Her brows snapped into a blank line. ‘I beg your
Filius dabbed at his eyes, still chortling. ‘Well,
it’s—it’s only to be expected—they’re not the most peaceable pair! Though I
will say they went—further than most…’
what on earth are you talking about?’
‘Really, Minerva…’ He shook his head at her,
chuckles subsiding to a smirk. ‘You must remember Michael Makepeace and
jumped into her head: six-inch purple fingernails, a vastly oversized nose, the
Quidditch pitch a scorched mess…She blinked. Filius nodded at her wisely.
‘Give the dust in Gryffindor Tower time a little time to settle and then I
doubt we’ll be able to separate those two without a Repulsion Charm.’
a moment, Minerva’s brows drew down again, and she pursed her lips. ‘I had to
send Miss Granger to the hospital wing, Filius. I think this may be a little
more serious than that.’ He hid his mouth behind his hand again, shrugged.
Minerva drew in her chin. ‘I think,’ she said slowly, ‘if you don’t mind,
Filius, that I shall reserve judgement on the matter. I would appreciate it if
you would do the same.’
propped his elbows on the arms of his chair. In the charmed light, his eyes
sparkled. ‘Of course, Minerva.’
a moment, she gave a grudging nod. ‘Well. Thank you for your assistance with
mention it,’ he said cheerily. ‘Glad to help!’
‘Good evening, Minerva.’ She eyed him levelly for
a moment, then turned away, and began to pick a path carefully through the sliding
stacks and awkward metal angles to the door. A faint chuckle sounded again
behind her; she ignored it, and reached for the handle.
a wind. It was really quite ingenious—drove two of his own hexes right back
onto him—’ Minerva speared her last bite of toast with her fork, shot a sharp
look past Albus’ elbow. Filius arranged his face into ostentatiously
disapproving lines. ‘Of course, it did a dreadful amount of damage to the
Gryffindor Common Room…but as a spur-of-the-moment strategy, it was extremely
effective! Perhaps we should reinstate the Duelling Club, Albus—properly this
time, of course—’
gleam sparked in Albus’ eye like a secret laugh. ‘I don’t think that would
send quite the right message, do you, Filius?’ He set down his goblet, turned
his head; Minerva bent a dour glance toward him and bit her toast off her
fork. Albus rested his elbows on the arms of his chair, and steepled his
hands. ‘And what do you make of this, Minerva?’
set knife and fork on her plate with a precise clink, and reached for her
goblet. ‘Nothing, as yet.’
raised an eyebrow, inclined his head at the Gryffindor table. ‘Mr Weasley and
Miss Granger seem to be…somewhat estranged this morning.’
sniffed dryly, swallows a sip of chill water. She had already seen it: the
cluster of red heads and one messy dark one at the far end of the table, and,
closer to the dais Hermione Granger hunched over a book, determinedly ignoring
the pointed little space around her. ‘That is hardly surprising, Albus,’ she
said repressively. ‘They were throwing hexes at one other last night.’
surprising—but somewhat worrying, nevertheless.’
set down her goblet sharply. ‘Indeed it is. I am not accustomed to find my
students brawling like trolls in the Common Room!’
looked at her over the rims of his spectacles; early light glinted coolly in
his lenses and his pale blue eyes. ‘It goes rather further than that, I’m
afraid, Minerva,’ he said soberly, and thin lines creased around Minerva’s
mouth. She drew in her chin. ‘Mr Weasley and Miss Granger’s friendship is
more important than they know—more important, perhaps, than you, or I, can
guess. This…estrangement…cannot be allowed to continue. Can I trust you to
see that it does not?’
froze cold under her fingertips. For a long moment Minerva sat, stiffly, her
hand fixed to the goblet stem. Her eyes lifted, shifted, to the long table,
the tangled brown mop, the far-off cluster of Weasleys. Slowly, she pushed
back her chair, stood, folded her napkin neatly beside her plate. ‘I certainly
do not intend to allow such behaviour to become commonplace among my students.’
Her voice rang cool and distant in her ears. ‘Now, if you will excuse me,
Albus, Filius—I have classes to prepare for.’
she shook out her skirts, settled her sleeves over her wrists, and turned
measuredly to the staff door; on the threshold, she hesitated, turned back to
the table and said, ‘Excuse me, Poppy?’
matron looked up with a spoonful of porridge halfway to her mouth.
folded her hands together. Her fingers tightened over her knuckles. ‘I take
it Miss Granger arrived at the hospital wing safely last night?’ Poppy
nodded. ‘What was the matter with her?’
sniffed. ‘Overexertion, nerves, and guilt. Nothing serious.’
eyebrows shot up. ‘Guilt?’
looked dryly over her shoulder. ‘If I’d been responsible for that,
Minerva, I wouldn’t want to face a dormitory either.’
‘I see.’ Minerva’s brows drew together; she freed a
hand, pinched briefly at the bridge of her nose. ‘Did she say anything about
the cause of all this, by any chance?’
‘Not a word.’
Minerva sighed. ‘Ah well. Thank you, Poppy.’ She
turned away slowly, ducked through the door and into the staff stairwell. As
she turned up the stairs, her pace quickened. Her skirts flapped around her
‘Ridiculous!’ she muttered.
portrait started. ‘I beg your pardon, Professor?’
stalked across the landing into the Upper Bailey Walk. Her mouth was a tight
line. ‘More important than they know—’
things are, Professor,’ said the Grey Lady loftily, and vanished into a shaft
of sunlight. Minerva snorted, and swept around the corner.
flick of her wand opened her office door, whisked back the curtains. Early
sunlight washed over her desk, painted stacked parchments pale gold, glittered
over the base of her lamp, the gilt jar and the frame of the hourglass on her
mantelpiece. She eyed the thin trail of sand crossly, swung away—
faint rap against wood halted her. She turned back. Ronald Weasley and
Hermione Granger stood on her threshold, side by side. Ronald’s chin was up;
his face was blotched with pink, and he scowled unconvincingly past Minerva’s
shoulder. Hermione’s elbow was pressed stiffly against her side, her sleeve
tucked away from Ronald’s. A curtain of wriggly brown hair hid face.
folded her hands at her waist. ‘Miss Granger. Mr Weasley. Come in. Mr
Potter!’ There was a sudden guilty shuffle froom behind the doorframe. She lifted
her voice sharply. ‘Your presence is not required. Kindly take yourself away
retreated along the corridor. Minerva’s chin drew in; with a satisfied nod,
she swept around the edge of the desk, seated herself, and beckoned. Hermione
and Ronald advanced slowly into the room. Outside the window, a bird peeped
faintly. Dry leaves whispered against stone. A clear laugh faded into the
distance. Sand hissed against glass.
sat back. ‘Well. I trust you are both thoroughly ashamed of
colour flared over the tips of Ronald’s ears; after a moment, his scowl grew
deeper, and his chin dropped. Under heavy poplin, Hermione’s shoulders
glad to see it,’ said Minerva tartly. ‘Well. I cannot consider the loss of
House points to be sufficient punishment for such disgraceful conduct. I will
be writing to inform your parents of your behaviour this evening. Furthermore,
I have decided that it will be your joint responsibility to repair the damage
you have done. You will both serve two hours of detention, under the
supervision of Mr Filch, every evening immediately after dinner until you have
restored the Common Room to my satisfaction. Is that understood?’
head lifted slowly. In the pale light her face was drawn and streaked with
mauve shadows. ‘Yes, Professor McGonagall.’ Her voice was small.
Ronald’s shoulders drew up.
arched an eyebrow. ‘Do you have some objection to this, Mr Weasley?’
a moment, he scuffed a toe against the flagstones. Then he looked up. ‘Well,
what about…what about our homework?’ he said, and his eyes lit triumphantly.
the edge of Minerva’s vision, Hermione’s eyes lifted disgustedly, and her lips
pursed into a derisive line. Minerva leant forward. ‘If either of you fails
to complete assigned homework, points will be deducted from Gryffindor as
usual, in accordance with school policy, and you will serve a Saturday
detention to enable you to complete it.’
chin pushed out mulishly. ‘But how are we supposed to do it if we’re stuck in
detention all night?’
suggest you exert yourself, Mr Weasley.’ Ronald’s face flushed hot pink.
Minerva tamped her lips straight. ‘Now. Your wands—’ At a touch of her
finger, the desk drawer slid open. She reached in, picked out the two wands,
reversed them and handed them across the desk hilts-first, the willow wand to
Ronald and the hazelwood to Hermione. ‘Your detentions will begin tonight.
You will be allowed to use magic to assist with the repairs. Now. You have
lessons starting in—’ She flicked a glance at the hourglass. ‘Seven minutes.
Divination and Arithmancy, I believe. I would advise being punctual.’
a moment, neither of them moved. Ronald stared at the wall. Hermione shot a look
from the corner of her eye; her shoulders hunched for a moment, and then she
ducked her head and hauled her bag higher on her shoulder, turned—
was a flurry of sleeves and skirts; Ronald wheeled around, stretched his long
legs, shouldered past Hermione and out of the door. Hermione stumbled,
stopped, her back rigid, her fingers clawed over her elbows.
eyes narrowed. ‘Miss Granger!’
flinched, half-turned; her eyes dropped away from Minerva’s glare. ‘Y-yes,
point will be taken from Gryffindor for every minute that you are late to your
Arithmancy lesson. There is no excuse for this sort of childish
behaviour from a school Prefect!’
The girl’s head slumped. ‘Sorry,’ she mumbled. It
was a long moment before she shook herself and trudged out of the door.
Minerva’s breath fell out in a tense huff; as the
door swung shut, she propped her elbows on her desk, and pinched hard at the
bridge of her nose. ‘Well,’ she said, and in the quiet her voice was weary in
her own ears. ‘We shall see, Albus. We shall see.’