Severus drew in a deep breath…feeling his side pull, he knew that last night had truly not been a nightmare. It had in fact, happened. The Dark Lord had taken his wrath out on many of the Death Eaters who were not captured – his penance, far less severe than most. Sighing, he pushed himself up…eyes instantly jerking open. Something was…out of place. Severus quickly glanced to the left and then the right…eyes scanning across his room. It appeared quite normal…and yet he felt, odd. As though he were…dare he utter the word, lighter.
Then he realized it…the wards…it had something to do with the wards…
At once…he threw the covers back, barely taking notice of the overbearing pain in his side as he drew his shirt about him. His mind focused on finding the Headmaster…and discovering who had shifted the wards.
Filius jolted awake…small brown eyes narrowing as he concentrated and tried to place the faint music that seemed to be pulsing with the wards… The wards?! At once, he jumped from bed as he summoned his robes. Someone had altered the wards…he needed to speak with the Headmaster…
Hagrid shifted his tunic as he stood up from petting Fang, "Aye me boy," His voice boomed, "It is shapin' up to be a good day." Fang stretched his front legs before standing, tail already whipping back and forth as he knocked his head against Hagrid's hand.
"None of 'dat, me boy. You'll ready had a treat." He patted Fang's head again, "Now's I'm off to brekf'st Fang." Fang barked into the hollow of the hut at Hagrid's commentary, "No, you'll have ta wait."
Shaking his head, Hagrid opened the door…and stepped into the morning light. The dew heavily blanketed the grounds, shafts of morning light seemed to be breaking across the horizon…glinting off the pearly field and onto the aged castle…
And Hagrid blinked.
And blinked again.
"Blimey." He muttered, rubbing his eyes as he stared up at the large, omnipresent castle…that seemed as though it had been built last eve and not over a thousand years ago. Eyes still fixated upon the castle walls, Hagrid quickly made his way to the entrance to find Professor Dumbledore…he would know what to do.
The Gargoyle stood steadfast as Filius joined the cluster of teacher's outside of the Headmaster's chambers and he stepped up to the Gargoyle. "Sugar quills."
"We've tried." Sinistra snapped.
"Everything we can think of that he's used as a password for the past year." Pomana chimed in.
Severus came around the corner, drawing to an immediate halt upon seeing several of his colleagues awaiting passage to Dumbledore's study. "Has anyone sought out Minerva?"
Severus did not wait for another word to be uttered as his cloak spun against the air, and his long strides were already bringing him to the steps which he began to take at two and three at a time. Not that Umbridge hasn't given me enough practice…
Not even a minute later, Severus stopped before a picture with a wizard fending off a dragon…and took in a rattling breath, his side aching terribly as he did so. The wizard instantly turned his head, "Password."
"Flur'nah Alba." Severus breathed.
The wizard turned away, and Severus felt his ire building. "Please seek the Deputy, it is a matter of most importance."
The wizard nodded to the dragon…and it flew from the frame. "One moment." The stately dressed wizard replied.
Severus did not have an opportunity to completely catch his breath as the dragon swooped back into the picture…and the wizard's odd cadence replied. "She has left for breakfast and can..." Severus was already turning around to descend the seven flights of steps as the wizard finished. "Be found at the Great Hall."
Minerva set her fork down, hand reaching across her plate…fingers barely caressing her tea cup when the teacher's entrance opened. Her eyes automatically darting to the door, but she was surprised to see ¾ of the Hogwarts professors enter and head…straight for both the Headmaster and her. On a typical day, most of the aforementioned professors would not grace the Great Hall for at least another 45 minutes.
Inwardly she smiled...they had suspected that all of the professors would immediately notice a difference with the wards this morning; once they themselves moved away from the bed, they could immediately feel a different vibration within the castle. They just didn't know how the staff would react…but as the small group congregated to a halt in front of them, it seemed that she and Albus now had their answer.
"Good morning." Albus cheerily stated to his professors. "I believe you are all here for the same reason." As if on cue, they nodded as one. "Last evening," He dropped his voice, pretending that he did not wish the handful of students present at breakfast to hear his explanation. "Minerva and I had to reinstate the full warding, and we apologize for any inconvenience or consternation this has caused, but both of our departures from Hogwarts simultaneously, even though it was for such a remote time caused a need for the full warding."
Severus' eyes darted to Minerva and then to Albus, "Why did you not inform us of this prior to warding?"
Albus didn't miss a beat in his response, "As each of you know, we typically do, and indeed I would have, but I felt it prudent to correct the warding immediately."
Poppy turned to Minerva, "I insist you stop by the Hospital wing this morning, the warding process is draining when you are healthy, let alone when you have just returned from St. Mungos."
Minerva shook her head, her voice brokering no room for argument. "I am fine, Poppy. I took a potion last eve after the warding, and had a solid night's rest."
"But that doesn't explain the castle walls." Hagrid stated.
"Nor that Hogwart's walls seeming to be humming." Filius quipped.
Minerva barely quelled her giggle as Albus' eye rose in apparent shock. "How peculiar." He stated, slowly turning to Minerva, eyes filled with concern. "Did you notice anything odd last evening during the warding?"
Barely contained mirth lined her emerald eyes as she met his azure ones. "Only that Hogwarts, herself, seemed happy for our return. And was quite willing to assist with the realignment of the wards."
His eyes twinkled in response before turning back to the mass of professors, "We shall look into it after the students' departure."
Satisfied with the Headmaster's response, one by one the professors began to migrate towards their seats. Stray comments reaching the Headmaster and Deputy's ears,
"…don't recall the wards feeling as thus…"
"…peculiar indeed, but if Dumbledore believes it was from their warding…"
"…you don't think…they…nah…forget it…"
Minerva and Dumbledore barely spoke to the other for the next half hour, as both engaged their other neighbors in animated conversation about the oddities of warding. "Minerva," Albus stated as he waited patiently for her to turn towards him and he fought to keep his gaze appearing neutral, and not as though he viewed her, lovingly.
"Yes." She said, smile radiating towards him.
"It is quite good to have you back, my dear."
"As it is you…" My love…Her words hung between them, as did the unspoken sentiment.
Severus felt the corners of his lips turn upwards…as the Headmaster and Deputy quietly spoke for a moment. Balance was being restored to Hogwarts…he had felt it last night after her arrival and even more so this morning, even though the wards seemed odd; Hogwarts had and continued to seem, more alive.
He watched as Minerva tipped her head back, smile gracing her normally stern face…yes, the Headmaster had been accurate in his statement that the two long time friends had settled their discord…bringing another precarious layer of balance to Headmaster and Deputy. A relationship riddled with paradoxes that created a balance for not only each other, but the wizarding world…as it was true with most things in life; almost, but not quite.
"Severus?" Severus shook his head, and the sentimentality with it as he reached for his pumpkin juice…eyes focusing back on the witch to his side. "Are you sure you are feeling alright?"
Obsidian eyes turned to met sparkling emerald ones…that seemed to twinkle from within…much like Dumbledore's…at this he blinked, forcing his mind from such childish notions and smiled. "Fine Minerva, but I believe I shall be better this evening with a decanter of firewhiskey."
"And no students about…"
"Nor Umbridges too."
Minerva reached over and picked up her own pumpkin juice, gently touching their glasses together. "To another year."
"Salud." He replied…the rest of the professors joining suite…glasses clinking in the morning light.
Hope you have enjoyed this tale; and thank you very much for all your kind reviews.