An Inspector Calls
All characters belong to J. K. Rowling.
I must admit that the weeks following the end of the inspection were of no easy consequence for me. No immediate word transpired from the Ministry as to any accusations Granger may have levelled towards me, and thus I concluded that she'd so far kept her thoughts to herself. Therefore, no one else had any idea of how our last meeting had been enacted, apart from the portraits. Whether this would remain so following the publication of the report, I could not say.
I'm sure one can appreciate that I did not enjoy being held, in a manner of speaking, to ransom by Miss Granger. I did not know her intentions, but I would not contact her to find out. There were reasons why I would not demand to see her, to put my defence across, again. For one, the whole idea of what she'd accused me of was just so preposterous that I felt it beneath me to dignify it with another response. But, perhaps more importantly, I considered that further defence was not warranted. After several days of mulling over it, this was what I decided.
I am readily accused of pessimism, paranoia, negativity of thought, and so on, and people are right to do so, but, on occasion, I am capable of generosity of thought—giving what is called the benefit of the doubt. I dislike thinking in such brittle terms, for I prefer to deal in absolutes, not maybes and what ifs, but in this case, I decided that, were I to give Miss Granger the benefit of my doubt, then there was a good chance I would not go far wrong.
We are all at the mercy of our emotions, and are liable to act in stupid ways given certain situations. Some rather more than others, of course, but I cannot deny that there have been times when I have overreacted, or have been blind to certain truths. Our wonderful friend hindsight helps us in that respect, and so I wondered that, with the help of hindsight, Miss Granger might have realised her mistake in jumping to such erroneous conclusions. She struck me as someone who generally practised rational thought, and if that state would prevail once more, I rather thought she would see her fanciful imaginings for what they were. Why she should ever entertain them in the first place was for her to decide. I would not speculate on such matters.
It came to pass that about a week or so following the conclusion of the inspection, I received what appeared to be confirmation of my reflections—a short note from one Hermione Granger.
'Dear Professor Snape,' she said. 'I wish to apologise for the way I spoke to you at our last meeting. I realise that I may have overreacted, and in doing so, said some things that were objectionable. I am sorry for any offence I may have caused.'
May have overreacted? May have overreacted? There was no may about it—she had overreacted! I crumpled up the missive—terse, aloof missive that it was—and threw it into the bin, where it could languish with the discarded drafts of my welcome letter (ten drafts, so far, in fact). So I now had some confirmation that she saw the ridiculousness of her behaviour, but, frustratingly, it didn't seem to be the end of the matter.
I tried to put it from my mind—all of it. I remembered my earlier resolves that once she was gone, my mind would be easy once more. That was before our altercation, of course. Still, I had to wonder whether I should have forgotten her easily had she not left in such high dudgeon. Staff members often made mention of the prospect of the inspection report. If some problem or disaster occurred, it was often followed by the refrain of, 'Thank Merlin the inspectors weren't here to see it!' Therefore, even if I'd successfully managed to empty my mind of her, there was always some reminder to bring her back.
The most troubling part of it all was when I let myself contemplate as to how her accusations might have changed my view of her. I should like to say that I felt apathetic towards her, or contemptuous of her and her nonsense—that would have been a blessing; logical. Instead, I felt… disappointed—displeased. It had taken me a while to pin it down, but yes, it was disappointment. To me, it seemed superfluous and illogical.
What was the point? Nothing was changed, not really. She was still gone, as she would have been, regardless. She was gone without any prospect that we might cross paths again, beyond inspection-related meetings, as I had known would always be the case. It was completely pointless to ponder over it. I should have been scornful of her, as I had been at the start. Why, then, did I allow myself to feel disappointment?
Was it because I had her 'To think I actually liked you' echoing about my head at inopportune moments? There was a lot to read into it. It was confirmation that she had actually liked me, and had not merely been desperate—had not been looking for fun at my expense. The fact that it bothered me, could only mean that I wanted Miss Granger to think well of me, and that was truly frightening. That I should give a care to what she thought, I could only surmise that I must be losing my grip. A softening of the brain, maybe.
That I was losing my touch appeared to be confirmed when I found out it was noticeable. Minerva had invited herself to take tea in my office, one day, and enquired as to if I was worried.
'You seem a little withdrawn, Severus, even more than usual. Are you really so concerned about the publication of the report?'
I told her I was fine, bridling at myself for letting my behaviour become affected.
'You're getting the rest of the staff to feel tense, you know. We all noticed how, when Sybill tripped over her own robes in the staff room yesterday, you failed to even crack a smirk, let alone a cutting remark. Even Sybill was surprised.'
This was about midway through the proposed month that Miss Granger had specified would take for the report to be complete, and I resolved that I would get my act back together. I was surrounded by people day in day out, that I should feel the loss of her particular presence was…stupid, and I felt stupid. But I had taken special enjoyment in employing my particular brand of conversation with her, indeed, I had made special effort with it. I could tease the others, but it was almost second nature with them, and none of them responded nearly so well. Minerva sometimes did, but I wasn't attracted to her, so it was a moot point.
But such thoughts should be the domain of others, not me. I could get on with it—had endless practice of it.
I was not to put her from my mind for long, however. In due course, as the days fell away, I eventually received notification of Granger's visit, and, finally, a copy of the final inspection report. There it was suddenly, on my desk. Not really of a particularly nervy disposition, I dived right in. At first glance, it looked promising. Effectiveness of the school was considered 'very good'. Standards achieved by the pupils were 'very good', too. Though, glancing through the more detailed subsections, it was clear that certain parts of the curriculum were performing better than others.
Oh dear; the attitudes and behaviour of the students were deemed 'excellent'. What on earth could I criticise them for now? She had to take all of my fun away, didn't she? 'There are signs of good rapport and respect in the relationship between students and teachers?' Was that meant to be a joke?
Ah, here we go. Leadership and management—'very good'. Well, no doubt I'd take that over a 'satisfactory' or 'poor' any day. Still, I was intrigued to see where they thought the improvement lay. 'The Headmaster is ably supported by his deputy.' Merlin, that was a tough one to swallow.
I read on. The bulk of the report focused on the main issue of quality of education provided, and generally, it was praiseworthy, especially towards the core subjects. For History of Magic, standards were only 'satisfactory with some shortcomings'. Teaching was considered 'too rigid' with not enough emphasis on getting the students involved in lessons. I wasn't sure what would happen with that. It would fall upon me to speak to Binns, no doubt, but, like as not, he wouldn't give a fig about it. Divination, well, I need not elaborate—it was not good.
It was to be expected, but I wondered whether it could ever be otherwise. I supposed Sybill could be the best teacher there ever was, but Divination, well it was a stretch to even call it a discipline. How could you possibly teach children about 'signs' and 'portents' when no one believed in their relevance? It was recommended in the report that Sybill take part in some sort of training course. What the bloody hell was that?
Other points of praise were on the supportive role of the prefects towards the younger students; the opportunities to play sport (ha! Minerva would have to get a pat on the back for that one); the library; good use of resources, and so on.
Some other recommendations included: allowing parents to be more involved (like hell!); the encouraging of more collaborative or group work between students in lessons (I recalled that Granger had plentiful experience with 'collaborative work' from her student days, usually going against my wishes!); more emphasis on the importance of leading healthy lifestyles would be helpful (what else had the salad been for?).
There was also a rather lengthy exposition on the role of the Head of House, implying that there were improvements to be made in that area to 'enhance' the role. Specifically on the area of 'care' and 'support.'
I did look for one, just to check, but Granger had not added a footnote anywhere declaring me a lecherous cad.
The report was rather comprehensive, and it would take a while to digest it all, but on the whole, there appeared to be no one glaring issue to deal with, but rather several points that simply needed sharpening. It surprised me a little, but as I read through the judgements, I did not feel the indignation or animosity that I'd anticipated at the onset of this process, when the thought of being told what to do by some upstarts had stuck so bitterly my throat. I disagreed with some points, certainly, and still rather felt that the exercise was limited—how can accurate verdict really be passed on a school from witnessing only one week from many? But, I could stomach it, and that was the most important thing.
And how did I feel about my so-called 'conspiracy theories' now? I thought the Ministry would be content with this report. Only time would tell as to what effect, if any, it would have on the main issue of the trend of parents electing not to send their children to Hogwarts. And only time would tell whether I would end up being held accountable if the trend were not reversed by these reforms.
I placed several copies of the report in the staff room, and there was a veritable stampede towards it when word got around that the report was published. Horace ripped through the pages for news of his club.
'Horace!' I sighed. 'Just take heart from that fact that Potions was singled out for its standard of achievement, and that your thriftiness with public funds has been passed over—forget about your damned club!'
I'd never get through to him.
I had no doubt they were all very pleased by the contents of the report—none of them had any particular reason to feel disappointed. Even Minerva, never one for letting her hair down, metaphorically or literally, looked satisfied in that prim way of hers.
'The ship is still afloat then, Severus. I told you Miss Granger would not fail us.'
I didn't even bother to argue the point. I should have pointed out that it was on the part of the school alone that we had not failed, not any strength of Miss Granger's, but I just nodded.
As for Sybill, well, she was stuck up in her tower, as usual. Someone would have to go and speak to her, and that responsibility, unfortunately, would be mine. I'd have to dust off my inadequate soothing voice again.
And so, the following day, Granger returned. I sent Minerva to go and collect her from the Entrance Hall, having no wish to do it myself. We all sat around the table in the staff room, waiting for her, and I couldn't help but recall the similar meeting we'd had three months ago, when I'd taken every opportunity to undermine her. This time, well, I had not much desire to say anything. She came in, all smiles for everyone, and her smile faltered only slightly as she made her way to the empty chair between Mineva and me.
'Good afternoon, Professor Snape,' she murmured, as she sat. I only nodded.
I think she noticed Sybill wasn't present, for when I chanced to glance in her direction, her expression was troubled as she looked around the table. Unfortunately, she caught me looking. From then on, I kept my gaze on my hands resting on the table.
'There will always be difficulty,' she said, commencing the discussion, 'when trying to determine the effectiveness of a school such as Hogwarts, simply because there is no other school to compare it to. It is not practical to compare with foreign schools, across different curriculums and contexts. But we believe that we have judged as best we can, as I hope you will all agree.'
She proceeded to give a summary of the report, lingering, mostly, on the areas highlighted for improvement. An observer might comment that I appeared as though I wasn't listening, or that I wasn't interested in what she was saying. They could not have been more wrong. She went through the recommendations, and though I should have liked to remain silent, I could not, of course. It would be my job to implement them—there were questions to be asked. When I spoke, I only glanced at her occasionally, opting to occupy myself with writing apparently important observations on my parchment.
There followed an opportunity for the other professor's to ask questions with regard to the feedback. Granger sometimes fiddled with her files as she spoke. I kept my eyes on the table. My relief and pleasure at having come through the inspection was secondary to something else entirely. That only served to make me feel cross and restless.
'All that remains for me to say, is that this is the last time you shall see me in this capacity.'
My blood ran cold. What was she playing at now? Several questioning murmurs arose around the table.
'As you know, this was, originally, a pilot scheme, but since it has been deemed a potential success, the Ministry would like to make it more permanent. I, of course, have duties to attend to elsewhere, though I hasten to assure you that whoever ends up taking this position will be fully versed in all details of the job. Indeed, I think you may be quite confident that relationship between the school and the Office for Standards in Education will become a mutually beneficial one. I have it on good authority that my fellow inspectors will be remaining with the office.'
I couldn't hear what talk next went on. She'd resigned her position as chief inspector? How dare she? Merlin, but she made my blood boil, sometimes!
I sat back in my seat, still refusing to look at her. I dimly heard her enquire as to Sybill, and whether she should go and speak to her. Minerva assured her that the Divination teacher would not see anyone at present. Granger sounded regretful, and how I wished that I could crow over her, tell her, 'Well done—you did manage to upset at least one teacher!' But I could not—didn't even want to, really.
Then she was taking her leave, with Minerva offering to show her out.
'Goodbye, sir,' she said quietly, but there was an undercurrent of discomfort audible. I looked up sharply, a little surprised to be distracted from my thoughts. She was leaving, then. For whatever reason, I did not reply. I merely looked away, an epitome of indifference, but in truth, quite the contrary.
The closing of the staff room door brought me back to myself. She would not say anything further—she was going. What to do? I wrenched back my chair with a screech, stood up, and stormed towards the door, uncaring of the surprised faces following my movement. I was not standing for this; by Merlin, I was not.
'What's wrong with him?' someone muttered.
'Minerva,' I called down the corridor. 'I should like to speak to Miss Granger before she leaves.'
They both turned and looked at me in surprise. Minerva glanced between Granger and me. 'Oh,' she said slowly. 'Very well, then.'
She walked past me, giving me a curious look as she did so, but I ignored her as she went back inside the staff room. Granger, for whatever reason, made to keep walking, but I shortened the distance between us in no time.
'Tell me,' I hissed, as we walked. 'Why are you quitting what you once saw as a potential new career, for one that only weeks ago nearly had you in tears? Hmm? I am disappointed in you, Miss Granger. Found sudden comfort in your debilitating monotony, have we?'
She paused her step and looked at her feet for a few moments. In time, she looked at me fully, but did not say anything.
'You led me to believe you could continue with both.' I sounded like I was accusing her, and I suppose I was.
'Circumstances have changed…' She smiled a small smile at me. As much as it pains me to say, I was happy to see it, indeed, some of my impatience dissolved at it. 'I took your advice. I tried harder. I went to my supervisor and told him that if he did not at least consider my proposal, I would quit. Presumptuous of me, I know, but they know that I am a good worker, regardless of what I am given. Maybe, they took note of my work in setting up the Office for Standards in Education, but they've promoted me into policy-making, and, well, it is probably right that this job is given to someone better qualified, as I'm sure you would agree.'
She was not reproachful, just matter of fact. I felt rather… odd. I couldn't bring myself to say anything, even though I had a thousand and one thoughts rushing through my mind. Really, any trifling thing would have done. A brief, 'well done,' for instance, but no, I was frozen—struck dumb. This was it, then, she would not come back here again. I was aware that she watched me for a moment, and then, when clearly she began feeling uncomfortable, she started to walk away.
'Were they the only reasons, Miss Granger?' I asked quickly, finding my voice. I began to move towards her, but checked myself. She had her back to me and did not notice my hesitation. 'Do you still believe those preposterous allegations that you flung at me so readily during our last meeting? Have they put you off ever coming back here?'
Despite it all, did she still wonder if there was a grain of truth in them somewhere?
I saw her shake her head negatively. 'No, not at all,' she said, and for the first time all afternoon she sounded less like a detached outsider and more like the Hermione Granger who had thrown herself into nosing into my affairs with such gusto. 'I meant it when I said I regretted that incident.'
She faced me, and her expression was troubled. 'I'm sorry for what I said that day.' She sounded sincere; there was no note of reluctance or resentment. 'I realised, almost immediately, that I was wrong to have accused you of such behaviour. I…' She shrugged. 'I can't explain it, really.'
Neither could I. I felt that it should be the underlining for the whole of our recent re-acquaintance—'I can't explain it, really.'
She approached me, and I wondered if she would reach out and touch me, as she had done when she'd been as close to me in the past. However, she only sighed. 'That moment, when I overheard you in the staff room, it made me take a step back and ask myself, 'What have I been doing this week?' And do you know what? When I did, I hardly recognised myself. And I couldn't understand why, after so long, I suddenly felt—' she visibly searched for the right word '—well… exhilarated.' She looked at me significantly. 'Did you know what was happening? Because I suddenly realised that I did not.'
No, I had not had the first idea of what had been happening. Still didn't. The whole week had been unexpected, to say the least, and if I'd wondered at what the hell she was playing at, then it only seemed logical that she would reciprocate in kind.
'There was one thing I thought of then, at that moment, which had not bothered me before,' she continued, shrugging her shoulders. 'You're older than me—I suppose I was suddenly intimidated… Insecure, maybe…'
Intimidated… I could see why that might be so.
'I could only think that you saw me as terribly naïve, and that I'd made a fool of myself.'
So, she'd thought, for a moment, I'd seen her as an easy target to take advantage of. And yet, out of the both of us, she was the one with the experience in such matters of attraction—she was the divorcee, not me. But, perhaps I should have been flattered that she considered I could charm a woman, so craftily, and be successful at it.
'You won't believe how stupid I felt, afterwards.' Her voice was not light with embarrassment, but instead, almost grim.
'Do you cringe over it often?' I asked calculatingly.
She bit her lip, to hold back a smile, I think. Her cheeks were pink, though. Good.
And then there was awkward silence between us. She shifted on the spot, and her eyes would no longer meet mine. 'Well, then…' She was going to leave, again.
Infuriatingly, I still could not allow it. I had to wonder as to what I was doing. I thought I should just leave it there. Under any other circumstances, I would have—it was not like me to persist in such a way, and I didn't even know to what end I was persisting, not really. Apparently there was something I was not satisfied with, and I would not see her go until I was. I found the will from somewhere to address her again.
'Anything else?' I asked, breathing deeply. I couldn't believe myself for hoping there was another reason she'd resigned her position. And the way I was badgering her—like I was some fool without any self respect! Well, I could dwell on the shame of it later on, while nursing a few snifters.
She surveyed me at length, and I was surprised to see her countenance change to one of obvious hesitance. I willed her to continue and I wondered if she would. I sensed she was apprehensive, but she was a Gryffindor—she'd manage. She visibly steeled herself, and there was an element of hope in her voice that interested me. 'Are you sure you want to know?'
No; I was standing there making an arse of myself for the benefit of my health! My expression must have indicated something of my thoughts for she gave a short chuckle.
'Sorry… I, ah…' She stopped, now looking faintly green. For Merlin's sake! Did she not know this continued vacillating was going to do me in if she wasn't careful? What the hell did she want to say? If she didn't hurry up there'd be nothing for it—I'd have to use Legilimency for the sake of my sanity!
'Yes?' I urged.
'I think you once told me that I was blind to the concept of 'conflict of interest,' she stated hurriedly. 'It appears you were right.'
I was confused. Was that it? She was telling me that I'd been right all along? Well, shit; as if I had ever considered it any other way! I think I may have lost two inches in height, then; I felt so suddenly deflated. She was obviously not going to say what I hoped, very much despite myself, to hear.
'It never bothered you before, why should it now?' In reality, what I really wanted to say, most impatiently, was 'Just leave it, Granger; just forget about it! I've got a bottle of Scotch that needs seeing to!'
She stared at me so hard that I wondered if she'd become catatonic. Then she spoke. 'I don't mean conflicting jobs, Professor.'
She didn't? Oh. Suddenly, I felt invigorated again. I felt trepidation, unease, and through it all, unending anticipation. 'What, then?'
She clasped her hands together in front of her, clutched them together tightly, in fact, and an uneasy look appeared on her face. 'You see, I… have considered, wondered, hoped that, if you were, ah, agreeable, you might consent to be my… conflict of interest?' Her voice almost died in her throat over the last few words.
My throat went dry. She watched, looking for all the world like she might collapse with self-consciousness. 'It's silly, I know…'
This was it, what I'd wanted her to say, and now she had, I didn't know what to do. I should say something, I decided, quickly. 'You would have left without informing me of this?' Not the best way I could have responded, I know. But that is who I am. I respond to declarations of the soft sort with reproachful accusations.
She swallowed and nodded fractionally. 'I'm sorry; my courage failed me—I could not imagine that you would welcome any advance from me, after the way I behaved before…' She bit her lip.
'I see,' I said, trying to take it all in. She was a silly girl—it was incontrovertible. She would have gone without saying anything. If I hadn't have got up off my arse myself, she would have left and never come back. 'I see,' I repeated slowly.
'Do you?' she asked, a tad tremulously. 'But what shall you say, then?'
I looked intently at her, indeed, I had been doing so ever since I'd first accosted her. What should I say? The prospect of entanglement was now staring me in the face—how did I feel about it now? We'd talked before of monotony and repetitiveness—did I want to relinquish that, after all? And yet, wasn't life, to an extent, always about monotony and sameness? Who was to say that to choose another way was not to end up in the same place, eventually? The point was, it was about having someone with which to share life's routine, wasn't it?
I mentally shook myself. There was no need to analyse it to death. One thought prevailed above all others:
Just say the right thing, for once in exceedingly sorry life!
The right thing. I often, on purpose, said the wrong thing to extort a certain reaction for my own amusement, but in this instance, to say the right thing suddenly seemed easy. I forced my legs, which felt like lead, to cover the last step between us. She appeared rather anxious, but she needn't have. I held out my hand, hoping the action was not as tentative as I inwardly felt, but she took it without hesitation, which pleased me (how easily she could please me—the shame of it!). I considered her fingers, far daintier than my own.
'Miss Granger, I shall say…' Bloody hell, don't bottle it now, Snape! 'I shall say—I should relish all opportunity of being of any interest to you.'
There, I'd said it, had vocalised it aloud—it was out in the open. Only an Obliviate could save me now.
'Oh,' she said with a mixture of quiet surprise and relief. 'That is, very well, indeed…' She smiled modestly.
Her lack of forthrightness, compared to the times when she had taken the initiative, I found rather charming, perhaps because I had brought it about.
Where now? I wondered; what now? I'd set myself a precedent, I decided I should probably continue with the momentum.
'Your work, then, with regards to education is over?' I asked.
I nodded to myself. 'And you are, from today, no longer responsible for, or party to, any involvement between the school and the Ministry?'
Her eyes began to sparkle. 'The inspection is over—complete. I have nothing more to do with it. Indeed, I am just a glorified quill-pusher for Magical Creatures once more.' She smiled at her use of my former insult for her.
'But, nevertheless, my favourite quill-pusher, shall we say?'
She dipped her head coyly. I nearly smirked. Who knew I'd be such a good hand at the smooth-talk? That phrase nearly had her reaching for her wand not so long ago!
'Very well, then, now we know we are not acting unprofessionally…'
She was looking at our hands. 'We should continue where we left off several weeks ago,' she finished, raising her eyes to mine and I could immediately see that she'd found her verve again. She lifted her eyebrows in challenge.
Well, I would not lose my nerve this time. I would kick any concerns swiftly into touch (see—I must have been a rugby player in a former life, at least). I pulled her against me, and I began to lean towards her—and then I felt it:
The strange prickling sensation one feels when one is being observed.
'Hang on,' I whispered, and she looked at me in confusion. I turned my head to my left and there was Dumbledore, Phineas, and Dilys bloody Derwent staring out at me from within a still-life. They looked abashed when spotted, but I had my wand out in a flash and suddenly the painting was covered in a thick mist. There's nothing worse than oil-based voyeurs.
Job done, there was nothing to hang about for now. She raised herself up on her toes slightly, and I was mentally steeling myself for the moment to come (anyone would think I was repulsed by her), but then she only went and brushed my hair back, letting her fingers splay over my cheek! Did she not know the damage such gentle caresses could do to such a creature starved of affection as me? As it was, I felt momentarily stunned. It was only a moment, mark you, but Merlin, it seemed to take an age to pass. In an flash of hyperbole, I thought I might keel over from the tension.
Voices started shouting at me in my head.
Breathe, Snape, you daft git!
What the hell are you waiting for? A swift kick up the arse?
It was possibly one of the most stressful situations of my life, of which, you may gather, there have been many, but I was still ill-equipped.
And then, finally, I suppose we simply went for it. The distance closed, and I could use all the clichés, if I were so inclined—that her lips were soft, that my heart jumped, or that my blood sang. Clichés they may be, it didn't make them any less true, really, but I'd rather think in less flowery terms. I will simply say, then, that when our lips parted I should not have minded kissing her again, and again, and again (was that flowery? I may need to check).
She smiled widely at me, apparently pleased. 'You're not going to shout at me this time, then?'
'As long as you don't run for the Aurors,' I muttered. She would not get away with teasing me, regardless of who she was.
She flushed. 'Sorry, again…'
I shrugged—it was of no consequence now, apart from for moments of amusement, of course. I had a feeling that, on past form, she was going to furnish me with many in the future. Maybe I'd organise a Pensieve especially for such moments.
It was strange, I admit, to have her standing there so close, but already I was getting used to having her hands about me. Certainly my heart beat a little less hard when her fingers touched my skin, of which there is precious little uncovered, I grant you, but they were fluttering at my jaw just then.
'The fog is beginning to clear around the painting,' she observed conspiratorially.
Actually, I didn't mind, especially as she seemed to feel this happening warranted three quick kisses before we were visible once more. One on the lips and one on each cheek. I only minded when she whispered into my ear, ever so slyly, 'You're smiling, you know.'
I assure you, I wasn't. Indeed, I highly resented her insinuation, so I scowled.
She lowered herself back to her feet, smirking slightly. What the hell had I opened myself to?
She brought her hands back to her side, and I sought to do the same. One of my hands, though, was nearly lost in that riotous hair she had. I think her hair was maybe what had fascinated me in the first place, and I ran my hand over it experimentally. 'Merlin, how that bun of yours infuriated me,' I muttered, before I could stop myself.
'What?' She laughed incredulously and touched her hair self-consciously.
'Never mind,' I said quickly. Insight into the inner workings of my mind might scare her off, I decided.
I proceeded to ask her if she should like to stay a little longer. Who could have predicted that I should prevail upon an inspector, albeit a former inspector, not to leave? One of the people I'd decided were to become the new scourge of my life. It was possibly the irony to end all ironies. Though, this whole tale might be considered one of infinite irony—from start to finish.
Voices could be heard further down the hallway, and I turned my head towards the staff room. 'They didn't wait around to celebrate, did they?' Pissed as farts in a few hours, they'd be.
I supposed I had good reason to celebrate, too. Indeed, I'd done fairly well out of what I'd thought would be a hideous situation. The school hadn't failed the inspection, had done tolerably well, in fact, and in the process, I'd bagged myself a Granger. Funny how things turn out.
A suggestion was put to me that we could either go and join the frivolities in the staff room, or go and find somewhere more quiet. Well, that was going to take me all of two seconds to deliberate over, wasn't it?
I offered her my arm.
'I believe I never did give you the full tour of the castle, Miss Granger. Did I ever tell you that I have a whole tower to myself?'
Indeed, a tower mercifully free of all interruptions. The rabble in the staff room were unlikely to miss me after a sherry or five. Though, I thought I might have to smuggle her through my office if I wanted a peaceful life. On reflection, that was probably a lost cause, already.
'A whole tower? Impressive.'
I thought so, even if I said so myself.
Besides the more enjoyable diversions I had in mind, I expected there was much discussion to be had between us, too.
Indeed, I had a most pressing question I would to put to her, namely—
Why the hell had she only given me a 'very good' instead of an 'excellent'?
What more did a man have to do?
She must have simply been overcompensating in case her 'conflict of interest' became publicly known.
Yes, that must have been it.
AN: I've had a real laugh writing this story, and I hope you've had as much fun reading it. Thank you very much!