Profile of an Incopetent Inquisitor

by

Eleanor Belle

Chapter 38

Truth and Consequences

Hello all!

I walk away from Dolores' office with a sense of relief and closure. That chapter of my life has finally been closed. On the way to my quarters to pick up my bags before leaving Hogwarts forever, I am drawn towards my old office for some odd reason.

When I enter, memories flood into my mind. I remember a day when Rupert surprised me with lunch and roses; a rush of nostalgia rips at my heart but tears no longer fall from my eyes.

I am totally lost in thought as I stare out the window, looking down at the lake, when I hear my name being called from the doorway.

"Eleanor, I need to have a word with you before you leave." It's Severus.

I am rather curious to what he has to say to me right now. I thought he would have been satisfied that I would be out of everyone's hair by tonight. I turn around to face him, leaning casually against the window seat.

"Yes, what do you wish to talk about?" For once, I decide to leave the sarcasm and angry comments to myself. "Have a seat if you like." I point to the only chair in the room.

He sits stiffly in the chair and says, "I have been told you had a discussion with the headmaster and Minerva concerning the events that occurred this year. There are a few concerns that I wish to address as well before you depart this evening."

I take a deep breath. Ranting and raving about this breach in privacy will get me nowhere. "Severus, why are you getting into the middle of all this? Minerva and I have worked through some issues lingering from that seizure during my fifth year. She felt guilty about my slipping into a coma and not being able to revive me." It pains me to continue, but I do. "Both she and Dumbledore have accepted the fact I have grown up and am moving on in life."

"This has nothing to do with reliving the trauma of your youth or the disaster yet to come in your life," he says pointedly.

"Why do you even care what goes on between the three of us? It doesn't have anything to do with you." I am getting annoyed and bite my lip to stop myself from shouting.

He stares coldly at me. "The reason for my interference is to protect Dumbledore and Minerva from any more drama than needed. Both of them are carrying burdens that are too much for any one to bear, and they don't need your selfish, attention-seeking behavior adding to it."

"Explain to me this need of yours to interfere on their behalf. Volunteering to do a good deed, Severus?" I inquire sharply. I feel like I have been violated on some level.

"I have been keeping you out of Minerva and Dumbledore's hair. If you were in trouble, I would take care of it before it could reach their ears," he confesses. "When you went missing, it nearly killed Minerva. She ended up in the hospital wing overnight to be treated for shock. As for Dumbledore, he dropped everything to look for you. With everything going on right now, this is the wrong time for him to be distracted by your nonsense."

"Nonsense?" I ask indignantly, getting off of my perch. "I seem to recall Dolores is the one who cursed and then kidnapped me. I didn't volunteer to spend my Christmas at St. Mungo's. I'm sorry for the dent in your holiday plans, but you could have just said no to Dolores' summons to my hospital room." I am getting to the truth at last.

"When Dolores had you locked in St. Mungo's over Christmas, I walked into that room to find you drawing your last breaths on that bed. I could only think of how devastated Minerva would be if you died, and you could have been saved. You have no idea of the lengths people will go for you, do you?" He stands and approaches me. I feel vulnerable.

I remain in a stony silence. I want to protest that it wasn't my fault, but I am seeing the other side of what happened this year. I didn't realize how devastating this was to my mentors and friends. I can only stand here with my mouth hanging open and heart filled with shame.

"I heard that Lupin came to see you at St. Mungo's after your heart attack. He finally managed to drag the truth about Dolores out of you. Most of this could have been prevented if you would have just told someone about being cursed." He moves to within inches of my face, and says, "At some point you are just going to have to take people at their word. Show some trust and prevent some agony from those around you."

"Would you have believed me?" The question pops out of my mouth without thinking about it. "I have a reputation for going around the twist, you know."

"Believe it or not, yes, I would have believed you." He backs away, giving me more space. "Most of us already knew Dolores Umbridge's nature. We were sickened when it was revealed you were the victim of a curse. Again, another burden is placed upon the shoulders of Minerva. I promised the Headmaster I would keep an eye on you to prevent anything else from happening to you at all costs."

"I don't know what you want me to say. 'Thank you' sounds stupid. I had no idea of what was going on. Maybe, I shouldn't go around with blinders on. All I could see was my own pain."

Severus starts for the door, but he turns to say, "I believe you understand the point." He leaves without a further word.

It takes me a few minutes to collect my thoughts and get a handle on my feelings. So Severus was helping me out of some twisted sense of duty to Minerva and Dumbledore. I feel ashamed that he felt forced to intervene on their behalf.

I look back toward the window only to notice the sun setting low on the horizon. It is time for me to go. The Embassy has set up a one-way Floo connection between Dumbledore's office and the Toronto Headquarters.

It is going to be difficult to look Dumbledore in the eye after what Severus has told me. I wonder if I should bring the topic up at all. My instinct tells me to leave it alone. I don't want to dig up any more old issues.

I retrieve my bag from my old quarters, but I don't linger around to get a parting glance. There are too many painful memories: Dolores pinning me against a wall, cursing me until I had a heart attack, the attack from the men looking for the book, and my falls mistaken for suicide attempts. I lock the door with a sense of completion that this is the end of a horrible year.

On my way to the Headmasters office, I stop in the Entrance Hall to take in the activity one last time. Peeves is whizzing around, cackling some nonsense and hitting students about the head with a sock filled with chalk. I hear chatter about summer plans from the students, and the distant pops and bangs of students taking the last chance of performing spells before leaving the school.

A few minutes later I find myself facing the griffins guarding the stairway to Dumbledore's office. After giving the password, I make it up the stairs without my knees giving out.

As I walk into the headmaster's office, I can see that Minerva and Dumbledore are deep into conversation; however, they stop when I stride further into the room. I feel like a student again, waiting for detention.

"Ready to go so soon?" Dumbledore asks. He still looks tired and drawn. "Dolores can't throw you out of the country anymore." A twinkle of amusement comes to his eyes. "I must say you missed quite a send-off she received by the hands of our students."

"Is that what Peeves was babbling about in the hallway? I saw him running down students with a chalk in a sock," I tell him with a strained grin. I feel like this conversation is a bit forced.

"How do you feel about Dolores Umbridge's suspension?" he inquires, catching me off guard.

"Dolores will slither out of it somehow and pop out of a hole into somewhere else. She'll be back, more demented and dangerous than ever." I wonder if he wants me to tell him about the papers? It's my problem really.

Minerva stands up shakily on her feet, and I walk over to her, dropping my bag on the floor. "Nell, I'm going to miss you. Is this what you want?" she inquires tearfully.

"I want to do this. Help has been asked for, and I am the person who can help them," I explain. "I'm grown-up and moving on." I can't keep the tears at bay any longer. It's not fair. I give a long sniffle, pull away, and pick up my bag once more. "I really need to go. I have a meeting in a few hours to prepare for." I quickly wipe the tears away on my sleeve, taking the opportunity to compose myself.

Dumbledore hands me a handkerchief as I walk over to get a handful of Floo powder. "I'm proud of you," he tells me, putting an arm around my shoulders. "Your friends here at Hogwarts will always be here if you need us."

I step into the green flames to begin the rest of my life.