The Sugar Quill
Author: Sweeney Agonistes (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: A Sprig of Lilac  Chapter: Chapter Three
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Part Three

O how shall I warble myself for the dead one there I loved?
And how shall I deck my song for the large sweet soul that has gone?
And what shall my perfume be for the grave of him I love?

-Walt Whitman

I was in the middle of the first class of the day when Remus Lupin stuck his head in the door. “Professor?”

I stopped mid-sentence. “Yes, Mr. Lupin?”

“The Headmaster wants to see you right away.”

I looked around; I had a first-year class. “What class are you in right now, Mr. Lupin?”

He looked at the floor. “I – er, I’m just coming back from the hospital wing.”

Lupin did look a bit peaky – and the period of the full moon had just ended. Of course. “We’re just covering beetles – would you mind watching them?” I hated to ask him to do it after he had been ill, but he was a talented Transfiguration student, and he was very good with the younger ones.

The offer seemed to be just the thing to cheer him up. He smiled and said, “Of course not, Professor.”

I fixed the first-years with one of my better looks and said, “This is Remus Lupin. He will be in charge of the class while I am away. He is a sixth-year and knows much about both beetles and buttons; if you have any questions, ask him. Carry on as usual.” I gave Lupin one of my rare smiles – he was a good young man, in spite of the scrapes he got into with his friends – and left, heading for Albus’s office.

Past the gargoyle, up the stairs, knocking on the door. It opened, but it wasn’t Albus who opened it. It was a Ministry official. “Mrs. Dumbledore?”

An echo of last night’s chill cast delicate, insidious tendrils across my back. Nobody ever called me Mrs. Dumbledore. And that meant –

“Yes, that’s me,” I said.

“Sit,” the Ministry official said, not unkindly. It was only then that I noticed Albus in the same alcove that I had secreted myself in last night. He came out of the shadows; the look on his face frightened me. He was stern, stiff – but not like he was when he was dealing with the Ministry.

It was more like he was fighting for control.

He came and stood beside me, resting a hand on my shoulder. His tight grip felt worse than the fingers of that cold chill. He would not look me in the eye.

The Ministry official looked down at some notes and cleared his throat. “Mrs. Dumbledore, it is my sad duty to inform you that there was an incident at your flat in Hogsmeade last night. All those inside were killed by Death Eaters, and the Dark Mark was seen above the building. The victims have been identified as Maimonides McGonagall, Demetria McGonagall, Meleagrant McGonagall, Finn Finnigan, and Theron Dumbledore. On behalf of the Ministry, let me extend my condolences.” He proffered a hand.

I wanted to move to lift my hand. I tried. I could not. All I could do was sit. I did not move.

From a distance, I heard Albus say, “Thank you, Perrine. I’d walk you out, but under the circumstances – ”

The Ministry man nodded and said, “Quite understandable.” He left.

Albus knelt in front of me, put his hands on my shoulders. “Minerva?”

I forced an answer. “Yes?”

Blue eyes – like Theron’s – searching, probing until I was awash in a sea of blue. I fell, was falling –

The eyes disengaged as he brought a hand up to them.

I stopped.

He was kneeling in a penitent sort of fashion, head bowed, face covered. A penitent. What did he have to be sorry for?

Oh.

His son was dead.

And then I felt it – no more numbness. Those cold tendrils turned to boiling, strangling claws, and a wild, keening wail escaped me, and we sat there on the floor of his office, drowning in a roiling sea of grief.

//
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