Woah, it's been a long time. I hope this chapter is up to scratch!
Nasty things towards the end, and I know the behaviour of someone is irrational, but I promise I will clear things up later on. A bit of swearing, I think, and a tiny bit of violence. I'm warning you!! (It might be good idea to refer back to other chapters if this one doesn't make sense.)
Minerva poked cautiously at the large tureen of unidentifiable meaty food that sat before her. She had recently been informed by a grinning Rolanda that the house elves were trying a new cuisine and that she had to be sure to sample everything.
Well, this one thing she not going to try.
Was it really food? Surely those slippery silvery things were not actually meant to be eaten? And the little specks of green were edible, weren't they? Minerva sighed and pushed the dish away from her, looking for some other food that was relatively familiar. Oh, good, bangers and mash. Minerva reached for the steaming dish of potatoes, but as she did so, another hand came out and whipped it from under her nose.
Minerva was very put off. She had been teaching all day on an empty stomach, had had to fend off the intricate workings of Peeves (who was suddenly very much an expert at dismantling suits of armour and throwing various parts at unsuspecting first-years) and was now trying to enjoy her first meal of the day.
However, it was not to be. The owner of the offending hand was spooning healthy amounts onto his golden plate and looking very happy about it, too. She blinked and studied him carefully.
Kline. Yes, this was Kline, the one she had been warned off of by Larissa. Brown hair, chin-length and gently wavy. Baby-blue eyes. Thin, crooked mouth. Handsome robes. Ladies Man was probably a good description of him.
Probably. Minerva had never really been considered a lady, in any case, she was too ... well, too quick to jinx people, as her Aunt Hera said. Ladies don't jinx people. So many times that had been pounded into her adolescent head, so many times Minerva had stood, head bowed, listening to why she should not pick fights with the Mckinnon boys.
Her appetite abated somewhat, Minerva only noticed that Kline was staring at her after a long moment. When she did, she blinked again. He didn't say anything and neither did she. Then he spoke, at last.
"Minerva Mcgonagall, I presume?"
He presumed? She'd been working in the same school for the last two weeks! "Yes, I am, Professor Kline."
"Ah." He stared at her hard, as if he were trying to bore a hole straight through her. Minerva thought he was no where near as good at it as Dumbledore. "Good to meet you."
" Ah ... Same here, Professor." Minerva had never been one say things she didn't mean – but this man clearly had a great grasp of the minor and boring parts of the introductory niceties and so she played along, to an extent. "Very good to meet you. I haven't seen you at meals very often lately?" She was good at this, Minerva marvelled. She might even have sounded sincere!
"I teach the older ones, more refined subjects, you know ..." No, Minerva didn't know " ... so I tend to take lunch in my rooms. Less hassle, see."
"Oh, yes, yes, very good idea. I can see it must be very time consuming." Now she was sure she turning into her Aunt.
Kline nodded broodingly; he sent her a strange look. "How are you finding teaching?"
"Oh," she said wholeheartedly, "I love it. I never thought of another career instead of the Auror office, but teaching is far better."
"Really?" Kline smirked. "The Slytherin's, being purebloods, of course, are a delight to teach. I find the muggleborns very slow."
"Indeed?" Minerva found her hand reaching for her wand; her mind was already thinking over which spells would be the most effective in a case like this, when Poppy descended from nowhere.
"Minerva, would you come up to the hospital wing, please?" She didn't even glance at Kline. "I need some help Transfiguring all those old poison bottles and Albus is doing careers advice, and I know you're great at Transfiguration. Would you mind?"
Without waiting for an answer, Poppy heaved Minerva up and began to haul her away.
"Poppy! What's wrong?!" Poppy glared at Minerva.
"I now he's an arrogant twit, but cursing him into last year is not going to endear you to the Headmaster."
"I don't give a damn about – " began Minerva, but Poppy stopped her quickly.
"You'll regret those words later, Minerva. I don't want to see you thrown out."
"I won't – "
"Shush, Min," Poppy soothingly. Minerva bristled.
"Don't call me Min!"
Poppy grinned. "There we are, back to normal. And I did mean what I said about helping me with the poison bottles." She sent Minerva an imploring glance. "You will, won't you?"
"Yes, if I must. I've got a half hour until lessons begin, so we'd best be quick," said Minerva, glancing at her watch. "Come on, then!"
Minerva spent, in fact, thirty five minutes helping Poppy and was consequently five whole minutes late, something Malfoy enjoyed tremendously. His father was on the Board of Governor's and would probably delight in reporting her as soon as his humiliation of his first punishment had faded.
"Good morning, class," she said briskly. "Today we will be concentrating on – "
There was a sudden giggle. Minerva looked around at the rows of faces and frowned. "Is something amusing?"
They didn't answer. Minerva continued. "Today we will be concentrating on the Transfiguration of a living mammal as a whole – "
More giggles. "What," she hissed, "is wrong?"
"Professor ...?" Louella Prichard said hesitantly. "There's ... umm ... behind you," she said lamely. Minerva gave her a piercing stare that would have melted ice, ready to deal some heavy punishments if this was a trick.
She turned round, fingering her wand, and jumped, though she managed to control it.
A small ginger tiger was sitting on the windowsill. Then, as she recognised what it was, she smiled and poked it genially. "Get up, Bungle," she said severely. He opened one yellow eye, regarded her with a cool glance, then flopped back down again.
"Ugh." He was quite clearly didn't want to move – neither was he going to. She moved back round to face her class, finding them staring at her interestedly.
"That," she said in an annoyed tone, "was my cat, who is so fat that he cannot shift himself and has decided to burden himself on my classroom's windowsill." The class tittered. "Right, as I was saying, Transfiguring a living mammal is very much a ..."
The lesson carried on excellently, and Minerva soon forgot all about her unsettling conversation with Professor Kline and gave herself wholeheartedly into her teaching.
Minerva stacked her numerous notes into a pile that was a passable imitation of 'neat and tidy'. She had no notes from the last professor, and so she was learning by herself. And one of her main new rules was to keep everything neat.
Bungle was still fast asleep on the windowsill. Minerva picked him up, staggering at his weight and thinking desperately of some sort of covert diet for him. Bungle, so large that his sides drooped put from under her arms, did not bat an eyelid as Minerva charmed her bags to hover behind her. She hitched Bungle further up in her arms and started off down the corridor to her study.
She was halfway there when she saw, very noticeable because of the bright purple and gold shooting stars embroidered on the robes, a mane of auburn hair and a long beard. She sped up, wanting to talk to him.
"Dumb – er, Albus!" she cried, pushing Bungle's tail out her face. "Professor!"
He turned and smiled, fighting for a place to stand amongst the sea of students. "Evening, Professor Mcgonagall. What can I do for you?"
"Oh, I ..." Oh, dear, she really hadn't thought this out very well. "I was wondering ... well, I just wanted a word is all."
"Certainly, my dear – Minerva," he corrected himself hurriedly. "Now?"
"Yes, if you wouldn't mind." She skirted a group of tiny first-years so that she stood next to him. "My study is along here."
"Very good." They started walking, the students now making a respectful avoidance of them. "How are you today?"
"I'm very well, thank-you," she said, surprisingly good naturedly. "Ah, here we are." She ushered him inside her study and followed him in, Bungle having now positioned himself over her shoulders.
Her study was not anything special, and Minerva had few possessions of the sort that one would furnish an office with, but she had put up her old cat clock and a big tin filled with ginger newts sat on the mantelpiece. Other than that, it was bare but for the orderly piles of paperwork. She closed the door and turned to Dumbledore, only to be once batted by Bungle's tail.
"Phff!" she spluttered, pulling him off her front. "Cat!"
He looked very amused. "I take it this is your own cat?" He tickled Bungle behind the ear.
"My cousins' queen's kitten. He was born up a tree," Minerva said gravely, depositing him on to the desktop. "I had to climb up and get him. He was the only one she had, there wasn't enough room for any more kittens inside her with him."
Albus laughed. "The wonders of Mother Nature."
"You know, that's exactly what I said. My aunt didn't think the same, but she let me keep him."
"Very kind of her," Albus said, scratching Bungle's neck.
"We had a terrible rat problem at time," Minerva said, remembering. "She though Bungle would help them down. Needless to say, he didn't. He's never done a days work in his life. If he was in Hogwarts, he'd be a Slytherin – " Minerva stopped, horrified. "I shouldn't have said that! Teachers aren't supposed to take sides!"
"I'm sure you'd be forgiven, Minerva." He twinkled down at her. "Very interesting, though. A Gryffindor through and through with a Slytherin cat."
She gaped. "It doesn't matter what Houses we would be in! He's my cat and only confidant!"
"There we are then." He smiled. "You've just proved you are not prejudiced."
"Very clever, Mr. Dumbledore," she said dryly, rather impressed. "Very clever indeed." She smiled guardedly.
"Well, Minerva, what was with you wanted to discuss with me?"
Minerva sat on the edge of her desk, thinking of how to start the conversation. "I was talking to Professor Kline this morning at lunch. He was very uncomplimentary, showing almost racism towards muggle-born students. I," she looked him straight in the eye, "I would like to know if this is the norm for Professor Kline ... and a good deal other things, too."
"Ah." He sighed and leant against the desk beside her. "Professor Kline is a fairly senior teacher by now. He does his job well and his seventh year students are well educated. He has never ... he has never said anything of this sort to me before now – "
"He'd be rather stupid to, though, wouldn't he?" Minerva interrupted. "You're Deputy Headmaster. And very powerful." Albus thought he detected a hint of respect for that. He winced.
"So many people think so ... Still, I do not think I deserve that praise."
Minerva snorted. "You killed Grindelwald. However much you might have hated it, you got rid of the Darkest wizard for Generations. Relatives of the victims will never forget that," she said darkly.
"Yes, well ... Professor Kline," he said, changing the subject, "has proven himself to be a good teacher. I ... really, Minerva, there is little I can do until we have more evidence."
"I understand," she said immediately. "Of course. And, in any case, Kline is an older teacher. I cannot expect you to take my word immediately over his."
"Very wise, Minerva." He peered at her over his half-moon spectacles. "A very wise speech indeed."
She glared at him not sure if he was teasing her. "No, a sensible speech."
He bobbed his head. "Quite, quite. By the way, my dear, Larissa has been looking for you."
"Larissa?" said Minerva brightly. "Oh, good, I haven't seen her since breakfast. Where is she?"
"Cleaning up after her fourth years lessons with the bubotubers. It was a rather ... interesting lesson, I think."
Minerva laughed. "I can remember doing bubotubers. I'm terrible with plants," she shook her head, "and they exploded all over me."
Albus chuckled. "Well, I'm sure she'd be glad to see you if you went down there. Are you done for the day?"
"Oh, yes – apart from the evening meal, of course." Minerva glanced out of the window; she could see a troop of weary fourth-years dragging themselves past the vegetable garden, looking utterly spent. She wondered how Larissa was, in that case. "Yes, I think I will go down. She might need some help."
"I quite agree," he smiled. "She's in Greenhouse Two."
"Oh, thanks." They stepped out of the office together and Minerva turned to go down to the Greenhouses. She looked back and smiled. "Thanks for listening to me, Albus."
He opened his mouth to reply but she had gone off down an adjoining corridor and was gone; he was looking at an empty corridor.
"Larissa?" Minerva poked her head around the door of greenhouse two and wrinkled her nose. "Larissa!"
"Oh, hey, Minerva." Larissa appeared from behind a huge Bificus Bonita. "Come in, but don't say I didn't warn you."
Minerva stepped in and into a large puddle of bubotuber pus. The whole greenhouse, even the other plants, were all covered in the foul-smelling pus. It slid down the sides of the greenhouse and oozed from the cracks in the pots.
"Hell, Larissa, Albus said you'd had an eventful lesson, but I wasn't expecting the full Monty!"
Larissa grinned, her face splattered with the green stuff. Her smile was a sudden flash of white beneath her smelly mask. "You wouldn't leave me here to sufferer, now, would you Minerva? Give me a hand?"
"Fine. You'll owe me, though."
"Excellent." Larissa threw a white overall at her. "Hurry up."
Minerva tutted, but donned the garment swiftly. "Come on, then. Scourgrify."
They spent two exhausting and smelly hours cleaning the greenhouse, and by the end of it both witches were ready to sleep where they stood.
"Larissa, this is disgusting. I smell like a dead rat." Minerva said, pulling the now dark green pus-covered overalls off.
"I didn't force you to help, you know," Larissa said mildly, her green eyes glittering despite the mud-coloured mask over her face.
"Well, you really do owe me one now," Minerva said brightly.
"We can go into the village and have a drink at the Hogs Head." Larissa said lazily.
"That's not much of a favour. You'll have to think of something else too. And let's go to the Three Broomsticks. The Hogs head is strange."
"The Three Broomsticks is cleaner," Minerva insisted.
"Good point," Larissa conceded after a moment. "The rest of the debt will have to wait until you've thought of something, though, I'm all out of ideas."
"I'll hold you to that," Minerva warned. Larissa grinned.
"Whatever. I need a shower." Minerva and Larissa exited the greenhouse, the overpowering scent of bubotuber pus floating in the air around them.
"I met Kline today," Minerva said eventually. Larissa glanced at her, then said in a laid-back drawl:
Minerva scowled so furiously that she could feel the dried pus on her face crack. "Little piece of – " she paused and didn't finish that line. "He was really cruel about the muggle-born students. Said they were slower than the others. If Poppy hadn't ... Git," she said in the end.
Larissa looked thoughtful. "He's never been so bad when talking to me before. He doesn't like me because I got the Head of House, you see, but he's never said anything like that to me."
"That's what Dumb – what Albus said. Of course, I agree with him, but I don't trust that man."
"Good idea," Larissa said blandly. "Never trust a snake."
"Larissa!" cried Minerva, shocked. "You know that's not true."
"Some would say so."
"If I didn't know better, I'd say you were jealous, Larissa." Minerva said cautiously. Her friend shrugged.
"Everyone has something they want to forget." She pulled some dried pus out from her hair.
"Yes ... I know," said Minerva quietly; they shared a quick, understanding look.
"As for Kline," Larissa said briskly, "I would advise you to be careful, but I doubt he would do you any serious harm – or could, as the case may be."
"When did Dippet employ him?" asked Minerva.
"Year after me. He's older, though, and felt that age was more suited for the job than experience." Larissa said with a small smile.
"Do you know what he did before that?" Minerva asked keenly.
"A printing press somewhere - I don't know! I feel a like a suspect brought in by the Auror office." Larissa said, looking askance at her friend. Minerva blushed a little and grinned.
"Was it that obvious? I just ... just fall back into that routine so easily. And he certainly is a suspicious person ..."
"Minerva, you will not endear yourself to Dippet if you try and arrest one of his teachers, you know."
"You're the second person to tell me that today! Poppy was on about it after I had my ... discussion ... with Kline."
"She's right, Minerva. You are a bit trigger happy."
"I ... I" Minerva faltered, looking more upset and wrong-footed than Larissa had expected. "I've spent my whole life being suspicious, Larissa, and I lived my childhood in fear of the Walpurgis Knights coming back for me. I find it hard to break the habit."
"Oh ... I'm so sorry, Minerva. I shouldn't have said that ." Larissa looked dismayed, her normally curving lips straight.
"No ... don't worry. Most other people think it, you're just the only one who's actually said it."
Larissa sighed. "I cannot apologise enough, Minerva. I ..."
"Don't worry, Larissa. I told you, it doesn't matter," Minerva said with a nearly convincing smile as they climbed the steps back up to the Entrance Hall in the gathering dusk.
"It matters to me, Minerva. I tell you what – let's call it another thing I owe you, all right, and then I can start to pay off the first debt by the both of us going into the village to a pub of your choice and letting me pay."
"I know I'm setting a terrible example to the students, but that sounds very good," she said with a resolute tone. "We always used to go out after work, in the Auror office."
"Good." Larissa rubbed her hands together. "There's no alcohol in Hogwarts but for the house elves' cooking sherry."
Minerva shook her head. "You sound like a hopeless drunk. You do know that, don't you?"
"If I do, honey, then you sound worse."
"We make a real pair then, don't we?" Minerva said with a laugh as they parted in the Entrance Hall with fond farewells.
"Tomorrow!" Larissa called after her. "I promise!"
Minerva grinned and waved back. "I'll remember!" She set off in rather high spirits, despite the smell that was wafting around her from the bubotubers. But, just as she was about to say the password to her rooms, she saw something out of the corner of her eye. A large shadow was moving in the corner. It raised it's arm; Minerva wasted no time.
It keeled over and fell with a nasty thunk onto the stone floor. Minerva poked it roughly with her foot and turned it over. Brown, chin-length hair slithered across the floor.
"Sweet Merlin and Agrippa!" Minerva said hoarsely. "Gods above, Kline, what the Hell are you doing?" She undid the spell and he struggled to his feet.
"Blast it, McGonagall! What were you thinking?!" He cried, running a hand through his hair.
"Actually," she said coolly her heart still doing a tango, "I was thinking something along the lines of, 'what the hell is waiting outside my door to ambush me?' and I reacted accordingly."
"Accordingly? You sure you're not related to a spitting cobra or something?" he spat in a way that would have made said spitting cobra proud.
"I think you're losing sight if the subject here, Kline," Minerva said icily. "The subject happens to be why are you here? And why were you trying to accost me on my way to my rooms?"
Kline drew himself up haughtily with an indignant sniff. "Look here, McGonagall, I really want this job. I've been here for years and have never got it, though I've been applying every time it's open. And I need this job, McGonagall. I want the job. You have to let me have it," he finished dramatically, throwing his arms about, a mad glint in his eyes. Minerva took an involuntary step backwards, alarmed.
"I applied for the job and got it," she said, staring at him. "What are you talking about, Kline?!"
"Listen, girl, I am going to get that job." He said, almost choking ion his rage. "I can make you."
Minerva highly doubted that. "You've got a good job all ready; why are you coming after mine?"
"I don't have to explain anything to you. Just ... I'll give you one chance to give me the job. If you hand in your resignation, make a nice excuse to Dippet and Dumbledore, and get of here, quickly, no one will ever know."
"Know what?" Minerva hissed, stepping closer. "I will not be intimidated by a pureblood maniac like you!"
They were standing face to face now, though was bit taller than him. The raw hatred that flowed from him and the power that radiated from very fibre of her body would have sent most people running for cover.
"Listen, McGonagall, I know things about you ... things that you don't want the public to know."
Minerva sneered. "I will not be threatened by a pathetic little worm like you. The day I bow to anyone will be the day that I die."
He looked taken aback for a minute by the sheer force if her words, but he rallied quickly. "You have forgotten – I used to work in a printing press. And guess who I saw on the front cover one day before Grindelwald's defeat? A tall woman, long black hair and filthy robes, though it was only the back of her. She'd found the body of a man – a man that had been brutally murdered. The Ministry never revealed her name, but I know who it was."
No, no ... impossible ... he can't know ... not now, not when things are going so well ...
"It was you, Minerva McGonagall. And what's more, I researched this. I don't think you found him dead. I think you killed him." He paused, an evil smirk on his lips. "And if you do not relinquish this post to me, I will give it to the Daily Prophet an then you will be fired.
Minerva found it hard to keep up her façade; a cold hand was clutching at her heart; she was suffocating.
He knows ... he knows ... he knows ...
She was jerked back to reality and saw his sneering and triumphant face. A surge if anger swept through her and she stepped forward and towered of over him.
"I bow to no man! The day I listen or heed the words of an arrogant, crazed, prejudiced little worm like you is the day that the world ends. I am a McGonagall and we do not pay homage to any man on this earth!! Now leave or you will feel such pain as has never been known within these walls!!" she roared. He gave her one terrified, yet sly look, and hurried off along the corridor.
She waited till he was out of sight, then sank against the wall, exhausted and shocked. She felt sick – really, physically nauseous. And all the time the mantra repeated itself in her mind with a doom-laden voice.
He knows ... he knows ... he knows ...
Minerva gasped her password and staggered inside. She clutched at the table and leaned over, gasping.
He knows, he'll tell ... Oh Marnie ...I'm sorry ...
Her stomach lurched and she stumbled to the bathroom.
Percival ... he knows about Percival ...
The thought of her lover, her boyfriend-cum-murderer, made her head reel as she remembered his death.
Minerva stumbled to the toilet and was violently, horribly, sick.
Whew, it's been a long time. I think I've got a plot, not too sure, but there we are. I'd love to know what you think!!