The Sugar Quill
Author: Ada Kensington (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: What Would You See?  Chapter: Chapter Two: Minerva McGonagall
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What Would You See…?”

a series of short stories by Ada Kensington


Minerva McGonagall blushed furiously, standing hidden around the corner from where her colleague Severus Snape stood – cursing heatedly– with Albus Dumbledore and the mysterious, large, rectangular package that had so lately aroused a strong, and insatiable, curiosity in her. So strong, in fact, that she abandoned all notion of protocol (albeit with careful planning and weighing out of consequences first) and had decided to go against her better judgement.

She had followed them. Followed them from Albus’s office, to the dungeons, to the West Wing, to the Astronomy Tower, past the Muggle Studies rooms, away from the Arithmancy classes, up and down, left and right – until she felt quite disorientated.

They were now clearly in on old (dare she say it…ancient) and obviously disused part of the building. A fine layer of dust even caked the floorboards of the corridor, where, by tracing the wavering prints left by Albus and Severus, she tracked them easily by casting a simple hover charm upon herself and floating silently along behind them like the Bloody Baron. After an indeterminate length of time, she came to this dusty corner, where Albus and Severus had stopped – or so it seemed – for the last time. Watching them lugging the paper-wrapped package the size of a door, through the actual door, with much muttering and mumbling from Severus – she nestled down into her corner – and waited.

Suddenly, after what felt like an age, she heard two swift pairs of footsteps exiting the room, and two muffled voices conversing … well, one muffled voice conversing brightly – the other answering in short monosyllables. The owners of the voices rounded the corner and – fearing discovery – Minerva shrank back into the shadows … and at the same time – shrunk physically in the shadows – limbs shortening and evening out, body contorting into a horizontal position (much better for creeping stealthily on soft, grey paws), eyes now glinting in the darkness, pupils lengthening and claws retracting.

After a while, Minerva McGonagall poked her fluffy little head around the corner and watched Albus and Severus round another bend, and if she could’ve gasped – she most certainly would have. The two were walking, arm-in-arm, with Albus comforting a clearly distressed Severus Snape – who had grown rather paler and shakier since the furious swearing a moment ago (her fur bristled as she recalled the obscenities). Waiting till they were out of sight, she sniffed the air to check whether the pair were sufficiently far away enough to safely expose herself. When she was satisfied, she padded softly out onto the main corridor, and creeping over to the vacant room, she nudged the door open softly with her nose – and entered.

Was the package dangerous? Or was it indirectly dangerous like the Philosopher’s Stone… Minerva wondered quietly – the nondescript little stone occupying much of her mind since its untimely arrival at Hogwarts. It must pose some sort of threat… she concluded. Otherwise why would Albus need to keep it here?

and why would it distress Severus so…?

Trying not to dwell on it, she continued to pad through the lonely, dusty room, and her eyes and hears – augmented in her changed state – meant that she could see further into the darkness and hear more amongst the dry, dusty silence. At the back of the room she could make out an old blackboard, covered in fine fragments of powdery dirt and faint diagrams – illustrating the niceties of turning an armadillo into a tea cozy – and some stacks of yellowing blank rolls of parchment, stuffed into the nooks and crannies behind the towering stacks of desks and chairs, that dwarfed her little, feline form. She also noticed, quite quickly, that this room was even dustier than the corridor outside, and she sneezed and coughed – dust catching in her throat and onto her fur – impairing her vision and making her look like an irate, little ghost-tabby.

Having had quite enough of the dust, Minerva resumed her usual form, and spent a few seconds beating the dust off of her velvet, emerald-green robes and wiping the grime from her eyes – and upon turning round to get a better look, minus the swirling clouds of dust swarming up to greet her – uttered a small, quickly stifled cry.

Surrounded by a moat of brown paper packaging and string – was the Mirror of Erised – illuminated by a shaft of ghostly, spectral, half-light that filtered in heavily through the grimy windows – dominating the room and sitting there – half in shadow, half in light. Bridging the gap between the real and the fantastic…

Minerva turned to run out of the room and got as far as the door – then paused to look back.

Now she realised why Severus seemed so distressed…

She had encountered the mirror once before. She had been patrolling in and around the Library one clear, cloudless midnight, watching for any signs of students out of bed. However, she hadn’t been watching herself, as she had roamed out of the Library in a dream, past Argus Filch and Mrs Norris – and suddenly found herself confronted with the strange, powerful and mystifying Mirror of Erised.

However, she had turned and fled – fearing what the Mirror would have shown her – and ran back, without stopping, to her quarters and shut herself in – trembling from head to foot. That night, she had lost her nerve, and all of her self-control…

and it scared her.

Anger rose up inside her like bile – hot and bitter – at the memory.

“Make me look like a coward, would you?” she said, her voice thick with barely suppressed fury – whirling round and walking swiftly back towards the mirror and stopping short – squaring herself, wrath in front of the mirror… but standing right in front of the mirror was a lot harder than she gave it credit for.

The anger dissipated, and she was left, trembling slightly with the aftermath of the adrenaline rush, in front of the mirror.

“So, what would you see?” she asked herself quietly.

She took a hesitant step forward and watched herself materialise, smokily, in front of her, smiling warmly as if it could sense her distress. Heartened by this show of warmth from the mirror, her fear and apprehension faded to all but nothing – and feeling a little braver now – she nodded at the figure and waited.

Her reflection faded, and dissipated into a swirling mist – forming several smoky images: Albus talking earnestly with her in his cluttered office. Herself - keeping a level head while Severus yet again lost his. Pupils, both past and present, coming to her for help and advice. Again, herself sitting in silence in the Great Hall – remaining strong – no matter how long the death toll grew.

“You may stop now,” Minerva whispered, closing her watery eyes and smiling as her reflection gave her one last encouraging smile – and faded back into the mirror.

With the aid of the Mirror, she finally allowed herself to recognize what she had always wanted, although, in her heart, she knew that she had known it all along. She wanted to be stronger. She wanted to be reliable, to be counted on, to be level-headed and trusted. To know that she would be strong when the hard times came…

…and when they did, she would face them – stronger and readier than ever before.

A little while later, two pairs of fluffy, grey paws scampered out of the not quite desolate room, and down and round the corner of the not quite forgotten corridor – eventually emerging out into the relative civilisation of the Great Hall – and bounded up the familiar route to the Gryffindor Tower, where their owner curled up upon their bed and fell asleep soundly.

That was one strong, reliable, happy, little cat.

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