The Sugar Quill
Author: ProfessorWannaBe  Story: A Stunning Recovery  Chapter: Chapter 3 - Home Again
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            Minerva stepped off the Knight Bus and looked up at the winged boars that topped the gates leading to Hogwarts.  The day was warm and sunny; there would be students all over the grounds to watch her hobble up the drive.  She had taken only a few steps when she saw that a carriage was coming toward her.  Hagrid was obviously going to save her the embarrassment of having to make her way up the drive with such an audience.

 

            The ride would also help her keep the promise she had made to Healer Derwent to take it slow and easy for a few days.  There would be lots of paperwork to be done after missing the last two days of classes.  Albus told her that the professors had taken turns proctoring the exams that had been planned for those days.  That left her four days behind in marking them.  Sitting at her desk for hours on end would surely satisfy the Healer.

 

            There were, indeed, a fair number of students out on the grounds.  Through the carriage window, Minerva caught sight of figures flying over the Quidditch pitch, groups—both large and small—sitting under trees and beside the lake; there were even a couple of students swimming in the lake alongside the giant squid.  They were all clearly enjoying the relief of completed exams and the pleasant weather.

 

            Minerva kept an eye out for one particular student as the carriage swept up the drive.  Harry Potter, however, was nowhere to be seen.  He was probably sitting with his friends in the hospital wing.  She wondered if he would allow them to comfort him or if he would succumb to morose speculations now that he knew the prophecy.  She would need to be especially observant these last few days of term to give Albus a warning if he showed signs of the latter.

 

In the letter he had sent to the hospital this morning, Albus expressed his concerned for the boy’s reaction to the double blow of Sirius’ death and knowledge of the prophecy.  Either one would be quite enough for a fifteen-year-old; both at once must be incredibly difficult.  Minerva was uncertain if she agreed with Albus sharing the memory with the grieving boy but it was done and she would do her best to help him deal with it.

 

Alighting from the carriage at the foot of the stone stairs, Minerva took a judiciously deep breath and let it out with a smile.  The day was gorgeous, there was no more pain in her chest and she was home.  A shadow crossed her face as she considered the fate of Sirius Black, who would no longer enjoy any of those things, and the young man left behind with a fate that seemed no kinder.  With another careful breath, she began to ascend to the Entrance Hall, not quite as happily as she had descended the steps from the Knight Bus.

 

The wide-open front doors to the castle allowed Minerva to overhear a conversation taking place in the Entrance Hall.  The muffled voices became more distinct with every step she took until she plainly heard Severus Snape use his most gloating tone of voice in reply.

 

            “Ah.  I see there are no longer any points left in the Gryffindor hour-glass to take away.”  A surge of indignation added speed to Minerva’s ascent so that she reached the doors before Severus could get much further in the badgering of one of her own students.  “In that case, Potter, we will simply have to –”

 

            “Add some more?” she interrupted.  Of all the students he could have been harassing, it had to be the one who had far more weighty problems to be contemplating than losing house points or serving detentions.  She quite often bit her tongue when Severus was pestering students but today she simply could not allow it.

           

            “Professor McGonagall!” Severus exclaimed as he came toward her.  Very few people would have noticed the change in his countenance that was the closest he ever came to smiling in public.  She knew that he would be glad that she was recovered but he would never say so, especially in front of the three Slytherin students who completed the entourage in the Hall.

 

            “Out of St. Mungo’s, I see,” Severus continued in his mock-derisive tone (the one that fooled everyone but Minerva) once he had stopped himself from taking the carpetbag from her.

 

            “Yes, Professor Snape.  I’m quite as good as new,” Minerva replied while removing her traveling cloak.  “You two—Crabbe—Goyle—”

 

            The two brutish boys hesitated until she beckoned them with the most severe look she could manage and still refrain from rolling her eyes at their thick wits.  They finally stumbled forward and she handed them her carpetbag and cloak, respectively.

 

            “Here take these up to my office for me.”

 

Their departure made this confrontation a bit fairer.  In fact, it tipped the scales in Harry’s favor, which suited Minerva just fine.

 

“Right then.  Well, I think Potter and his friends ought to have fifty points apiece for alerting the world to the return of You-Know-Who!  What say you, Professor Snape?”

 

“What?” Severus snapped. 

 

Minerva loved to surprise him with a little favoritism of her own.

 

“Oh—well—I suppose…”

 

Without even letting him finish agreeing with her, Minerva went right ahead and did just that.  It was immensely satisfying to watch 250 rubies cascade into the Gryffindor hourglass.  But she wasn’t finished just yet.

 

“Oh—and fifty points for Miss Lovegood, I suppose,” she went on and saw the corresponding sapphires drop into Ravenclaw’s glass.

 

“Now,” just to show you how big I can be about it, she thought to herself but only said, “you wanted to take ten from Mr. Potter, I think, Professor Snape—so there we are…” and a few of those newly arrived rubies returned to their former residence.

 

Minerva could not maintain her composure if she continued to look at Severus’ face.  He was nearly in a fit.  He had been thwarted in his harassment of Potter, had his lead for the House Cup severely curtailed and been shown up in front of students all in the matter of a few moments.  From experience, she knew he would never say a word to her about it either, he would just stew—and he deserved it today.

 

Turning to the boys who were still frozen in surprise at her appearance and her actions, she ordered them outdoors in the glorious sunshine.  Potter was the first to react by putting away his wand and heading straight for the front doors.  She would have to find out what he’d been doing with it out in the first place but that was for later.

 

Malfoy, however, did not obey.  Instead, he turned to Severus with a pleading look.  Severus jerked his chin in the direction of the stairs leading to the dungeon entrance to the Slytherin rooms and Malfoy quickly followed the gesture, carefully avoiding Minerva’s gaze. 

 

Oh well, best I could do, Minerva thought and moved toward the marble stairs.

 

With her hand on the banister and her left foot on the first step, Minerva called over her shoulder, “You could use some sunshine too, Severus.”

 

The smile and quiet chuckle could not be contained when she heard the swish of his cloak as he stalked back in the direction of his office while she continued up the stairs.

 

* * * * *

 

Days of grading exams and the usual end-of-term paperwork had given Minerva sore shoulders but she was happily without pain in her chest.  She carried her walking stick only because she had promised Healer Derwent that she would use it for at least a week.  In actuality, she hadn’t needed it at all except for the one afternoon when she tried to check on Harry by visiting the Gryffindor common room.  She had been so winded by the climb to the seventh floor that she hadn’t the energy to search for him at the edge of the lake where Miss Weasley had suggested he might be.

 

She had just reached the stairs on her way to dinner when Peeves, the Poltergeist, zoomed out of a classroom cackling and swinging a sock that appeared to be filled with chalk.

 

“Sneaky, sneaky but I got a peeky,” he was chanting to himself until he saw the Deputy Headmistress and Transfiguration Professor between him and the stairs.

 

“What do you think you are doing?” Minerva asked in the severe tone she had to take with Peeves, not to mention some recalcitrant students.

 

The weighted sock was behind his back in a flash as he tried to edge along the wall past Minerva.  She quickly stepped closer and pulled out her wand.  The action had the desired effect.

 

“It is nothing, O gracious professor.  Nastiness is leaving the castle in secret.  I only wish to offer a proper salute.  Teachers like chalk.”

 

It took a moment for Minerva to decipher Peeves’ rambling while keeping herself between the poltergeist and the stairs.  He had been trying to sidle past her on the other side during his cryptic speech.

 

“Umbridge.”

 

“He he,” Peeves sniggered and turned a somersault that made the clatter of the chalk echo off the high ceiling.

 

“Perhaps she is in greater need of this walking stick than I am,” Minerva offered sweetly, handing it up to him and stepping aside so that he could pass.

 

It was no great chore to make the rest of the trip to the Great Hall without the aid of the walking stick.  In fact, it made an excellent excuse to refrain from shooing students out of the Entrance Hall or intercepting Peeves.  The former were cheerfully watching the latter chase Dolores Umbridge down the carriageway using both walking stick and a sock full of chalk as encouragement for her hasty departure.  Minerva’s only regret was in not being able to join the happy throng.

 

* * * * *

 

[A final word of thanks to Suburban House Elf for her patient suggestions and kind encouragement.  It truly is remarkable that JK Rowling allows us to use her characters and settings as we practice our own writing.  I imagine there will be many a novel dedicated to her in the coming decades by young writers realizing the dreams that germinated in fanfiction.  As always, my gratitude goes out to Deborah and Sandra who endure the earliest drafts of all my stories.]

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