Chapter Four: A Morale-BoosterBy Alexannah

"You know, what this school needs now is a morale-booster. Wash away the memories of last term! I won't say any more just now, but I think I know just the thing …"
– Gilderoy Lockhart, CoS pg 176 (UK Edition)

At the beginning of every week, I run a mental schedule in my mind. It rarely goes to plan.

This week, for instance, would have been a typical week for a suspended Hogwarts headmaster. Checking how the school was running and long hours of research to try and find any way at all Tom could be opening the Chamber of Secrets. But like I said, my schedules rarely go to plan.

For one thing, this week the word 'suspended' was removed from my title. For another, Harry went into the Chamber after Ginevra Weasley. It also happened to be my wedding anniversary – the first one since Minerva and I separated.

My talk with Harry left me unusually exhausted. It's left me with uncomfortable memories of the time last year, when I thought I'd lost him. It still pains me to think about that, even though it's in the past. When I received the message from the governors, it was all I could do to stop myself banging my head on the desk. Tom is clever. I knew he must have taken Ginny for a reason, and I knew perfectly well what that reason was. Harry, naturally, went headlong into the trap, like he is. I wonder if he will ever learn, or if it's part of his nature to run straight into danger.

Maybe I should have been a bit harder on him. I thought I'd learned my lesson last year, when my encouragement nearly got him killed. Honestly, I felt like spanking him with Godric's sword and crying over him at the same time. Fortunately for him, I managed to refrain from both.

It is a truly remarkable feat how he makes me so frustrated with him and proud at the same time. I overheard the scene with Dobby and Lucius Malfoy. Harry has a good heart.

I don't have much time to dwell on the matter. Cornelius Fudge comes storming up to the school when the release papers for Hagrid arrive.

"What is the meaning of these, Dumbledore?" he says sharply, slamming them down on my desk. I take them and look at them. I know what they say, considering I wrote them in the first place.

"I'd have thought the meaning was perfectly clear, Cornelius. Hagrid is cleared of all charges, and is free to leave Azkaban."

I take a moment to survey him in interest. I think this is the first time I've seen Cornelius angry with me. Irritated at times, yes – normally something trivial, like the fact that he constantly has to remind him that he doesn't like sherbet lemons. (I know this perfectly well. But tastes change, and it's always worth asking in case he's changed his mind.) But this is the first time he's blown up at me about something big. We've had our disagreements in the past of course, but normally the man practically swamps me with owls on a daily basis. It doesn't half annoy Minerva. And me too, come to that.

I'm getting off track here. Back to Cornelius. His face is turning slowly purple as he rants about there being no proof that Voldemort was involved at all, or that Hagrid was not the culprit. I decide to let him let off steam for a few minutes, and then raise a hand to shut him up – er, to quieten him.

"Cornelius," I say calmly. What I want to continue with is something along the lines of, "You narrow-minded idiot, you haven't even asked if there is any evidence to support what I have told you, you just assume as always!" But I hardly ever say what I want to say. This time I assure him gently but firmly that we have an eye-witness who heard Tom Riddle's confession, which only confirmed many suspicions and theories I had built during the year; suspicions and theories, that, I might add, I built from my knowledge of Tom Riddle as a person. I concluded my speech with a reminder that I knew Tom from the age of eleven, whereas Cornelius has never met him at all, therefore (in not so many words) I know what I am talking about.

That shut him up.

I have honestly no idea why Minerva is cold-shouldering me. Just a quick "Welcome back, Albus" was all I received. I did not expect an over-enthusiastic welcome; I expected it to be slightly awkward because of the time of the year. But still.

I wonder if it is because of the memories. Perhaps she is just finding it easier dealing without me for the moment. The situation is so difficult; I never know what to do. I have not have an awful lot of time to give thought to it, but I have no idea whether to get her anything for our anniversary. She did not react well to her Valentine at all.

It was not even meant to be a particularly extravagant one. I thought she would appreciate something but I did not want to overdo it. But then Gilderoy and his blasted Valentines celebrations made everything get out of hand. He somehow got wind of the fact that I was sending Minerva roses, and decided to get his "cherubs" to present them to her in the middle of the Great Hall playing their harps and singing. I was not a witness to this, but I found out later Minerva burst into tears and fled to her rooms. Students were talking about it for weeks.

Hardly what I would call a morale-booster, Gilderoy. Still, he won't be arranging any more celebrations like these after that backfired spell. I would thank him if it were not for the fact that he would not remember what it was he did that I was thanking him for.

On the other hand, we now need a new Defence teacher. Again.

But never mind that for now. Term ends tomorrow. Minerva is going to stay with her niece straight after the students leave, so I have only one day to decide what to do about our anniversary. After Valentine's Day I have gone off the idea of giving her a simple bunch of flowers. I would not know what to write in a card. She's not really into chocolates.

Sitting by the lakeside usually inspires me, all the natural beauty surrounding Hogwarts, but today I can't think. In addition to my present-giving block, I am also painfully aware of the amount of work that still needs doing for the end of term.

Ouch! Someone just fell over me.

"Sorry!" said a voice, and I realised it was Harry. "Oh, hi, sir. Are you all right?"

My heart warms immediately. Harry has that effect on people. "I am fine, thank you, Harry."

"Okay." He doesn't sound as if he completely believes me, but runs off to join two figures further along the lakeside who I assume are Mister Weasley and Miss Granger.

It briefly crosses my mind that they should be packing, before it occurs to me that Miss Granger probably made sure all three of them were packed days ago. I chuckle softly.

Maybe I should ask somebody else for advice on what to get Minerva. But who to ask? Nobody I know has been in this situation. I still love her, I want to give her something – but something without strings attached.

Watching the staff-dubbed Golden Trio absent-mindedly, a probably mad idea pops into my head. Well, why not? I think as I make my way over to them. I have asked advice from stranger sources. I mean, if I asked Grindelwald what NEWTs he thought I should take, I should have no problem here.

"Miss Granger," I say, "might I have a word?"

All three are rather taken aback. "Of course, sir," she replies and the two of us retreat a few feet from the boys.

"I would like to ask you for some advice," I say. Her eyes widen and I think she is flattered. "You are female …"

"Well spotted, sir," she says, then claps a hand to her mouth in horror. I laugh and she relaxes.

"What kind of gift," I ask, "would I give to a lady to show that I care and am there for her, but does not – well – signify romance as such?"

"You mean, with no pressure?" Hermione queried.


She took a moment to consider. "Well, if it was me, I think the best thing would be to not get her an actual gift. Do something nice for her instead, something she won't expect. Cook her a nice meal or something like that."

"Who's the lucky lady, sir?" says a voice, and I realise that Harry and Ron have crept up on us. Hermione glares at Ron and I can't help but chuckle again.

"I'm not sure about 'lucky', Mr. Weasley, and I am certainly not divulging the details of my private life with you." I look at him sternly, but from the look on his face I can tell he knows perfectly well I am not serious.

"Well, good luck, Professor." I smile at Harry in thanks.

"Oh, and you three … this is just between us, understand?"

They all nod, and I take that as my cue to leave.

I don't know why I did not just ask advice from one of the female staff members. Maybe I used the question as an excuse to talk to them. I enjoy watching Harry with his friends – he always seems so much more relaxed and happy. Hopefully he will get more of a chance to enjoy himself next year …