< >< >It was the castle in the sky. If you looked at it, though, you would most likely think it was a castle in the mountains, but it was the castle in the sky, atop of the white, never moving clouds. But, yes, if you had to be logical, it was on a mountain top, far and high from the normal people and normal castles.
< >< >It was the day of opening for the Sharadine School of Witchcraft For Girls - the only magic school to begin in August - headed by the renowned headmistress, Madam Juane Tatooli.
< >< >All the teachers and staff bustled about, making sure everything was perfect, the enchanted brooms sweeping the dusted floors. Some of the brooms became comical and tried to sweep the dirt and dust under rugs, but the school caretaker, Arana Filch, put them in order by threatening to break them in half with her bare hands.
< >< >Feather dusters dusted the coats of armor that had been covered in dust for three months who swiped at the dusters, attempting to rip out their feathers, but Professor Samantha Gooding kicked them angrily as she swooped by like a bat, making them stop.
< >< >"Professor Erwin!" a voice called, magically echoing throughout the whole castle.
< >< >The professor sighed and picked himself up from his desk in his classroom for Transfiguration. His black robes swooped across the floor and he hurried through the corridors to the front hall.
< >< >When Professor Erwin emerged in the front hall, he stopped dead.
< >< >A black haired woman wearing long, emerald robes, looking very grave and somber, stood at the front door to the castle. Madam Tatooli stood next to the woman, the same look on her face.
< >< >"Professor?" Erwin asked with a touch of shrillness to his voice. He touched his throat nervously, a habit of his whenever he thought there was something wrong. "Madam?"
< >< >Professor McGonagall was silent for a moment in hesitation that Professor Erwin did not like at all. "Thomas, I . . . I have terrible news . . ." Professor McGonagall was suddenly at a loss for words and looked down.
< >< >"W - what is it, M - Minerva?" Professor Erwin stammered, knowing immediately that something was wrong. He touched his throat again and stroked it, as he was starting to feel very sick.
< >< >Professor McGonagall wouldn't look up, seeming both distressed and abashed.
< >< >Madam Tatooli took a step forward and gulped. "James and Lily Potter are . . ."
< >< >"What?" Professor Erwin croaked, his throat suddenly hoarse.
< >< >". . . are dead, Thomas . . ."
< >< >"What?" Erwin cried, having to steady himself against the old, wooden wall. His knees shook violently. "Is - is this a joke?" he demanded McGonagall and Tatooli sharply, his voice very high.
< >< >McGonagall looked at him and shook her head. "No, Thomas," she said softly.
< >< >"W - who? H - h - how?" Erwin stammered, forcing back tears.
< >< >McGonagall hesitated again. "V - voldemort, Thomas. It was Voldemort."
< >< >The was a pregnant pause, before Professor Erwin spoke.
< >< >"W - what happened to H - harry?" Professor Erwin wasn't very sure he wanted to know, but he knew that he must know, no matter what. They're dead! Voldemort! he shrieked in his head with malice and grief. All of them! Even poor Harry! He thought, that is, until McGonagall told him otherwise.
< >< >"T - that's just it, Thomas. Harry - Harry . . . Harry survived."
< >< >Professor Erwin stared at McGonagall, shaking harder than ever. "H - he survived?" He sank into a chair against the wall and buried his face in his hands. "How could a child survive Voldemort?"
< >< >"We . . . we don't know, Thomas. But when he tried to kill Harry, his powers . . . they . . . they just vanished!" said McGonagall with shrillness. "He just disappeared. No one knows why."
< >< >"When did this happen?" Professor Erwin demanded.
< >< >"Two nights past."
< >< >"Why wasn't I told this sooner?" cried Professor Erwin shrilly.
< >< >"Ev . . . everyone assumed you knew, except . . . except for Dumbledore."
< >< >Professor Erwin's eyes flashed with anger. "Of course not Dumbledore!" he shouted with a sneer, jumping to his feet angrily. "Why wouldn't Dumbledore know that I didn't know?"
< >< >McGonagall looked down.
< >< >"Where has he been taken?" McGonagall didn't answer. "Where has he been taken, Minerva?" Professor Erwin demanded through gritted teeth, his hands in fists, clenched at his side.
< >< >"To his only living relatives," McGonagall said delicately, watching the professor carefully. "Dumbledore left him on their front step himself. I saw him, and so did our games keeper."
< >< >"Them?" Professor Erwin nearly shrieked at McGonagall. "Damn Dumbledore and you, Minerva! Damn you both!" he shouted angrily. The professor gathered his cloaks and hurried down the corridor angrily, deliberately slamming his fist into the castle phantom, who doubled up in surprise. Professor Erwin disappeared into his chambers and wasn't seen until later that night, when the students arrived.
< >< >He looked very withdrawn and white that night. He didn't even look Madam Tatooli in the face, nor any student or other teacher. He merely watched the ceremony of the first years, who were sorted into the three groups of the school by the school fortune teller, who sat in the middle of the stage of the Great Hall, reading the first years' minds and deciding which group they belonged in, then get up and leave.
< >< >After that, Professor Erwin stared down at his plate, not eating. He collected stares from the school prefects and the teachers and staff who didn't know what the news of Voldemort's disappearance was doing to him; the other students were all too busy talking to take notice - that night. He didn't look up, but he could feel their stares. Most of all, though, he felt Madam Tatooli's hawk - like yellow eyes burning into his back like the fires of Hell.
< >< >The next day, the whole school was talking about already famous Harry Potter, whispering that he was the one who stopped You - Know - Who. It was an uproar, since everything had finally been confirmed by the Daily Prophet. Harry Potter - a little boy - had gotten rid of the cruel, infamous You - Know - Who! Amazing, impossible, outstanding!
< >< >There was one person, though, at Sharadine, that did not look happy at the news:
< >< >Professor Erwin.
< >< >He slammed through the door to his class, startling a group of fifth years who were excitedly talking about the incredible news.
< >< >"Shut up, all of you," Erwin snapped angrily, making them run to their seats. "This is a classroom for Transfiguration, and you know it. Not for gossiping about Voldemort - " the class gasped - "nor his hiatus from society. If I hear the name Harry Potter in this classroom ever again, the person who said it will be expelled - I will see to it myself - do you understand?"
< >< >The class stared at their professor in horror. Professor Erwin was usually a nice, caring, though strict, of course, person. A teacher never threats students! What happened to him? they all wondered, but didn't speak. They knew that he was dead serious in what he said and they were all afraid to speak.
< >< >Professor Erwin glared at his students until they all nodded dumbly, still taken aback at his harsh threats. "Get out your books!" he yelled sharply. "Page one. You're back in the real world now, ladies. Deal with it and get on with your lives."
Ten years later . . .
< >< >After five more years of being an all girls' school, Shardine School of Witchcraft for Girls became Sharadine School of Witchcraft Merged, a school for all students, as most were coed at that time and still would be, even years and years later.
< >< >Every year, students had filtered through, always talking about the elusive Harry Potter, who had met him on the street, the next book published with his name in it, who had had the best celebration for him that year, and more, but never, ever in Professor Erwin's distance of hearing, which had seemed to grow sharper and farther every year.
< >< >Each first year student was immediately told by the older students to never speak about the subject in Professor Erwin's presence. Older brothers and sisters told their younger siblings tales that Professor Erwin had tried to expel quite a few students in the first few years after You - Know - Who had disappeared when they said "Harry Potter," but Madam Tatooli had forbidden it just in time to catch Erwin trying to boot the students out the front door of the school.
< >< >Nobody liked Professor Erwin anymore; he was too hard, snide, and seemingly evil to like. Even his favorite and best students hated him. The teachers all tried to figure out what was wrong, but Erwin wouldn't say a word, nor would Madam Tatooli.
< >< >Rumors flew through the corridors for years saying that Professor Erwin had been on You - Know - Who's side and was upset and angry that he had lost You - Know - Who and any time now, he'd fly to where Harry Potter was and kill him off on the spot - for revenge. Yet there were many who had to say - even to their dislike of Erwin - that Erwin couldn't have. He was a Gryffindor from Hogwarts and no Gryffindor anyone knew of had crossed over.
< >< >About ten years after Harry had made You - Know - Who disappear, there was another uproar: Harry Potter was at Hogwarts, a Gryffindor, at that. If anyone had been around Professor Erwin and watched him carefully, they would have seen him go white and would have seen his hands begin to shake, but only few did, and they brought up the rumor of Erwin being on the Dark side again, but it was pushed away by all the excitement over Harry Potter.
< >< >"Shush your mouths," Erwin had snapped at his students after he had calmed himself. "What have I told you? Never ever speak that name in my classroom - ever! Do you hear me? It is none of our business! Back to work! Dennison, turn Ms. Fletcher back to human this once or I'll drag you Madam Tatooli's office and have her turn you into a pig!"
< >< >Suddenly, there was word of Harry being the youngest and best Quidditch player and Seeker at Hogwarts in over a century, which had caught everyone off guard - most notably when they heard that he had nearly fallen off his broom; he could have injured himself very badly. Erwin had gone extremely pale once more and snapped at his students to shut up again.
< >< >But Erwin couldn't stop the uproar when it happened again.
< >< >Harry Potter had defeated You - Know - Who again!
< >< >Professor Erwin had locked himself in his chambers after that. He couldn't have shut his students up if he'd body bound them. The teachers wouldn't shut up, either. Their faces glowed with pride in the wizard who had once again defeated You - Know -Who, which disgusted Professor Erwin.
< >< >When he finally came out of his chambers, he'd yelled at his classes: "I will expel all of you if you speak that name and you all know I will, by what rumors fly around here! So he has defeated Voldemort once more! I have told you it is none of our business, so be quiet, all of you! And I don't really care if he is your role model, Mac Fly, I forbid that name spoken in this classroom!"
< >< >Everyone knew then suddenly that there was something really wrong with Harry Potter to Professor Erwin, yet they had no true idea of what. The older students could do nothing but stare at their professor and whisper as the school year drew to a close. The first years were dreadfully scared of Professor Erwin, except for one girl, who surprised everyone, especially Professor Erwin, in that same year.
< >< >Professor Erwin was busy writing a nasty letter in reply to a letter he had just received, when there was a light knock on his office door and a soft said, "Professor Erwin?"
< >< >"What is it?" Professor Erwin snarled, not looking up.
< >< >"It's Anna Winterbourne, Professor Erwin . . ." came a soft called. The door pushed open.
< >< >"Ms. Winterbourne," said Professor Erwin, not looking up from his letter, "I didn't say you could come in, did I? Leave before I look up and you won't be punished." He thought she would leave and didn't look up.
< >< >"Professor Erwin . . ."
< >< >He didn't reply, his lips curling in anger, but he refused to look up.
< >< >"Professor Erwin!" Anna Winterbourne nearly shouted.
< >< >Professor Erwin jumped, blotting the word, "you." He stared at Anna in surprise.
< >< >Anna Winterbourne took a deep breath and stepped up to her professor. "Professor Erwin, I am a half blood and I have had a few brothers and sisters come through here, and they have told me stories . . . stories about you."
< >< >Professor Erwin narrowed his eyes to where they were slits, a normal habit of his when he was angry or annoyed. "Aye, I have heard them all. Delight me with one, Ms. Winterbourne. Go ahead, but realize, you'll be punished now."
< >< >Anna glared back at him, shocking him. "And the stories I heard were horrible. You suddenly turning cruel, right after Voldemort - to most people's surprise, sir, I can say the name - disappeared, shouting at your students. I heard from my brother James - " she didn't notice Erwin flinch - "that you actually tried to literally through students out the front door when they said - "
< >< >"Indeed I did and what is your point, Ms. Winterbourne?" Erwin asked sharply.
< >< >"You must know everyone hates you, Professor Erwin. You are not that dumb, I can tell. And you must hate everyone else, but I have to ask . . ." Anna let her words trail off.
< >< >"What?" Professor Erwin demanded angrily.
< >< >Anna leaned in so she could whisper in his ear. "Why do you hate Harry Potter?"
< >< >Professor Erwin turned white and stared at the wall in front of him.
< >< >Anna Winterbourne turned and left, not looking back at him.
< >< >Rumors ran rampant through the school, everyone whispering about what Anna Winterbourne - a first year! - had done to Professor Erwin. He wouldn't leave his chambers and it was a good thing that classes were over, to say the least.
< >< >Anna refused to say a word to anyone on what she had said and left school with everyone else, still refusing to say a word. She wouldn't even tell her parents who had heard tell of it through owls from parents of other students, nor would she tell her older sister, the person she was closest to in the world.
< >< >All she would say was, "It's between the professor and me, and none of you have any right in knowing," though, that is, to say the least, she had no real idea herself why Professor Erwin had been so shaken by her words. She had expected him to say he didn't, but he had gone into a sort of shock, and that scared Anna more than anyone knew.
< >< >Professor Erwin cursed softly as he read the letter. "Dumbledore," he mumbled, "again! I should just go down to that cursed place and put Dumbledore in his place on this matter!" But his psyche put him in his place. Thomas, the boy is at Hogwarts . . . Dumbledore will do something, you know it . . . Professor Erwin cursed himself. Of course he would, he snapped to himself, why wouldn't he, the -
< >< >"Professor?"
< >< >Professor Erwin looked up, startled. "Y - yes, Anna?"
< >< >The class stared at Anna Winterbourne. It was still shocking that Professor Erwin actually talked kindly - if you will - to a student; they did not know why he was doing it, either. They thought, though, it probably had something to do with what Anna had said to him three years before, and being right as they were, if they had known what even Anna didn't know . . .
< >< >Professor Erwin had been shaken so terribly by what Anna had said to him, that he was fearful if she pried around enough, she would find something out, so he had decided to be less sharp with her. She was quite bright, he had figured out quickly, top of all her classes; he'd never noticed before, not that he paid much attention to anything like that before.
< >< >"I think most of us our done with our test, sir," Anna replied, eyeing him closely.
< >< >Professor Erwin jolted into a straight sitting position. "Ah," he cleared his throat and stroked it nervously, "yes, you are right. Pass in your papers class. When the bell rings, you may leave."
< >< >A short boy timidly approached the desk and nearly threw the test papers onto the desk and did nothing but run back to his desk. Professor Erwin didn't even look at him; he was rereading the letter that had actually come in the middle of class, carried by a large barn owl, who dropped the letter on Professor Erwin's head, surprising everyone.
< >< >When Professor Erwin suddenly realized everyone was watching him, he jumped up, rolled the parchments, and hurried out of the classroom. Just as he strode out of the door, the class exploded into whispers and he caught someone say, "What has he got there? D'you think it's from You - Know - Who?"
< >< >Professor Erwin ran to his chambers, slamming the door behind him with such force it made the castle echo with its sound. The castle suddenly grew quiet, as if preparing for more slamming from him, as they were very used to.
< >< >Suddenly, this made the professor very weary. A headache roared in his head like a hammer bashing against metal and he fell on to his bed, shaking from head to toe, white as a sheet.
< >< >The professor woke to the sound of loud, continuous rapping on his door.
< >< >"Professor?" The rapping that had stopped momentarily started up again. "Professor Erwin?"
< >< >"What?" Professor Erwin croaked in a low, hoarse voice.
< >< >There was a pause, then a sharp crack, and the recently unlocked door swung open.
< >< >"Professor Erwin!" a voice shrieked. It was Madam Geoffrey, head of the infirmary, looking very shocked and worried at the sight of the professor, who knew he looked as worse as he felt.
< >< >"Madam Tatooli!" Madam Geoffrey nearly screamed, making Professor Erwin's head pound even louder. "Madam Tatooli! I need your help, now! To Professor Erwin's chambers and hurry!"
< >< >The bustling castle stopped dead. Professor Erwin?
< >< >"What is it, Lorraine?" Madam Tatooli asked in a forced sort of normal voice a few minutes later; Professor Erwin couldn't see her, his eyes only saw blurred objects and he was staring at the ceiling.
< >< >"It's Professor Erwin, Juane, look."
< >< >There was an audible gasp from Madam Tatooli. "What happened?"
< >< >"I don't know," Madam Geoffrey admitted in a soft voice. "He wasn't sick yesterday."
< >< >Yesterday? Professor Erwin wondered groggily. Have I been asleep long?
< >< >"Let's get him to the infirmary."
< >< >"NO!" Professor Erwin shouted suddenly, sitting up, making the two women jump back in surprise. "If you do - even try - I'll put a hex on all of you!" Any strength he had left disappeared from his body and he slumped back down on the bed.
< >< >"Do you think he's serious?" Madam Geoffrey whispered.
< >< >Madam Tatooli didn't answer, just stared at the sick professor. After a moment she said, "I don't know, Lorraine . . . I just don't know . . ."
< >< >Rumors flew through the castle like a hurricane about Professor Erwin: Did the letter have a curse in it? Did You - Know - Who visit him? Have you heard what he looks like? He's grown scales! No, he's grown feathers! I heard he threatened to turn Madam Tatooli into a frog with whiskers! No! A dog with feathers!
< >< >Indeed, Professor was sickly, but he hadn't grown anything but more weary. He refused to eat and threatened to hex anyone who came near him, but never to turn anyone into anything, although he certainly could, that was not an issue. People did stay away, but staff members always watched him around the clock, just in case . . .
< >< >Transfiguration was taken over by Madam Tatooli, who would answer no questions concerning Professor Erwin, except that he was sick, and no, he could not have visitors, nor did he want visitors, to answer Anna Winterbourne's question.
< >< >One day, late at night, Madam Tatooli was sitting in a chair across the room from the sleeping Professor Erwin, watching him. He even shakes in his sleep, she marveled sadly. Professor Erwin was on his side, facing the wall, curled a bit, and shook as if he was living in the Arctic with no blanket or fire to warm him.
< >< >Professor Erwin had always been complained about; many teachers had demanded her why she hadn't fired him, and she would say he was a good teacher, just bad with people. She also loved him as a sister loves a brother and knew in her heart she could never fire him, even if her life depended on it.
< >< >He was a good teacher, the other teachers couldn't argue that, for everyone he ever taught had, at least, good Transfiguration skills, but . . . bad with people? That was an understatement. He hated people. From Harry Potter to Madam Tatooli to Dumbledore himself, the most renowned wizard of the world, next to You - Know - Who, who was not renowned, obviously, for goodness.
< >< >"Professor Erwin," Madam Tatooli said softly, trying to blink away her tear stricken eyes, "I know you won't like this, but I will have to contact Dumbledore . . ."
< >< >Professor Erwin squeezed his eyes shut and did not reply; she didn't know he was awake. He slept so much during the day it was nearly impossible for him to sleep at night.
< >< >After Madam Tatooli left to get Professor Yuri for the next watch patrol, Professor Erwin let himself go and began to cry. When he started, he felt he never want to quit.
< >< >The professor cried himself to sleep and woke up the next morning to his chambers bright with light. He blinked and closed his eyes slightly to see. A man stood over him, his sparking blue eyes looking at the professor carefully with concern and worry, yet a twinkle of amusement was clearly there.
< >< >"You are up now, I see," the man said softly, stroking his long beard.
< >< >Professor Erwin looked away from the man. "I knew you would come. Madam Tatooli said it last night . . . but I did not know when, though I should have known . . . immediately, I daresay . . ."
< >< >"You are sick, Thomas, you should not speak."
< >< >"NOT - SPEAKING - BROUGHT - YOU - HERE!" Professor Erwin shouted suddenly, sitting up, and pointing an accusing finger at the man.
< >< >Professor Dumbledore sighed.
< >< >"Also, your constant letters for fourteen damned years, students whispering his name, rumors about me being on the Dark Side - ha - the boy arriving at Hogwarts, his being sickly, his defeating Voldemort again and again - what do you think this did to me, Albus?" Professor Erwin yelled.
< >< >Dumbledore sighed again, but it was quite obvious he didn't have an answer.
< >< >"Stop sighing!" Professor Erwin shouted. "I know what you are thinking and I am not pathetic! No matter what you or Minerva or Juane or anyone thinks!" He slumped back suddenly, exhausted.
< >< >"Of course you are not pathetic," said Dumbledore with surprise, raising his eyebrows. "I was not thinking that . . ."
< >< >"What were you thinking, then?" Professor Erwin snarled with malice, glaring at Dumbledore angrily. He didn't wait for an answer. "Get out. I thought maybe your coming here would be good, but this conversation has turned that around. Get out!"
< >< >"No!" Dumbledore yelled, surprising Professor Erwin. "No, Thomas," he said in a softer voice. "You can't ruin your life like you are doing now, Thomas."
< >< >"And why not?" Professor Erwin sneered. "And I am not ruining my life, thank you very much! My life is fine. It would be great if you and everyone else would shut up!"
< >< >"About Voldemort, Thomas?" asked Dumbledore. "About Harry Potter?" The professor flinched, but Dumbledore ignored it. "Not likely, Thomas. Not likely at all and you know it."
< >< >"And so what if I do? I've managed at least a little serenity in my life!"
< >< >"Doing what, exactly, Thomas?" Dumbledore asked fiercely. "Terrorizing your students to the point where they are afraid to speak in your presence? Afraid, that if they speak the name you have dared not utter in fourteen years, they will be expelled? Am I missing something here, Thomas? Tell me, what have you managed? Serenity? That's not serenity! That is neglect and fear!"
< >< >Professor Erwin glared at Dumbledore, his eyes turning to slits. "Leave me alone, Albus," he said quietly and coldly. "Just leave me alone."
< >< >Dumbledore lifted his spectacles to eye Professor Erwin, then left the room, closing the door behind him.