Disclaimer: I borrowed Professor McGonagall from J.K Rowling. Not sure if I want to give her back...
Part one of a two-shot story. The Sequal is called "checkmate" and can be found on my profile.
It's always the same. Each week, after our meeting, he asks:
"Would you care for a game of chess?"
And I always say yes. I have said yes each time for so long now that to say no would be breaking a tradition. Besides, I do enjoy chess, and I am good at it. I like to win.
We have played Chess together each week for as long as I can remember. It must be years and years. Occasionally we have missed a game here and there - the fault of ministry meetings or student misdemeanours - but we have always made up the loss with an extra game the following week. Somehow, missing a game is a sacrifice that neither of us is prepared to make. I don't know why. Perhaps it is the one constant in our frenzied lives, the one security. I admit that I deeply regret the times that we cannot play and I have been known to hold detentions at the same time, setting the students work to do as the Headmaster and I sit quietly at our game.
We set up the board, he pours us more tea and then he proceeds to defeat me soundly in five moves. Between each of his moves, he sucks on a sherbet lemon. At first, all those years ago, I found it distracting. These days, however, I am attuned to the sound and would probably lose my concentration if he didn't do it. I take my time as I decide on my next move, and he sucks away quietly, rubbing his hands together sometimes or drinking his tea. He has usually consumed four sherbet lemons before I make my move. I count them as I concentrate on the game, as if they are the markers of the clock ticking away the time I have left before I must make a decision. The whole time I feel him watching me, waiting to see what I will do. He makes no show of impatience for a lesser intelligence than his own, and I do not feel rushed. I take as much time as I need, trying to guess his strategy this week - always different from the last. When I finally decide to move my piece, I always look up at him and find his eyes meet mine. He will raise his eyebrows in a comical manner, or sometimes he will smile as if he is pleased with my choice. Occasionally over the years he has let out a sigh, an exclamation of surprise or vexation. In those instances, he will sit back in his chair, his elbows resting on the arms, his fingertips together, his eyes to the ceiling in thought. Then it is my turn to observe him as he thinks about his next move, although I am never entirely certain that that is really what he is thinking about.
When it is Albus Dumbledore's turn to move, he does not look at the board. Instead he looks at me. Sometimes, when our eyes meet, I know that he is not thinking about the game. A man of his superior intellect does not need as much time as he takes to make his move. I cannot tell why he takes so long, but it is always about the same amount of time as I take myself. Four sherbet lemons. Sometimes I look up at him, my eyebrows raised, prompting him as if he was one of my students to get a move on. He only smiles widely in return and sits back in his chair, watching me. I wonder what it is that he thinks about.
In all the years that we have played together, I have never won a game against him. Perhaps that is why I always agree to play. As I said earlier, I like to win. Perhaps my constant defeat drives me to try one more time to beat him. But then again, after all these years I should know that I never will. Perhaps it is his company that I enjoy, but we barely speak when we play. It is often the longest amount of time that we spend together in one sitting each week, and yet we hardly say a word. I say nothing at all. The only thing he ever says during these times is "check". Eight sherbet lemons later, the game is won. I don't know why he never says the closing word.