Author's Notes: The backwards temporal structure of this story was cribbed, I freely admit, from the late Harold Pinter's play Betrayal on the same topic.
Heartfelt apologies to Bryan Adams for the aspersions cast upon his song, "Please Forgive Me". This author finds it a perfectly lovely piece of contemporary music; it's just that she doesn't think Minerva would care much for it.
The other song mentioned is, of course, "Where or When", by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, from their 1937 musical Babes in Arms. The version referred to in this chapter is the one by Peggy Lee and the Benny Goodman sextet from 1941.
Several phrases in the "14 February 1993" section of this story are lifted verbatim from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 13 of the first American edition.
"Please Forgive Me" words and music by Bryan Adams and Robert Lange. Copyright © 1993 Badams Music Ltd. (EMI).
"Where or When" words and music by Richard Rogers, lyrics by Lorenz Hart. Copyright © 1937 Chappell & Co., Inc. Copyright renewed.
Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman. "Where or When" on The Complete Recordings: 1941-1957. Sony Music Corporation C2K 65686, 1999, compact disc. Recorded in 1941.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets © Copyright 1999 J.K. Rowling. Published by Scholastic Press, a division of Scholastic, Inc.
Betrayal and the Art of Salvation
Every betrayal contains a perfect moment, a coin stamped heads or tails
with salvation on the other side.
~ Barbara Kingsolver ~ The Poisonwood Bible
3 November 1996
When did a win at Quidditch turn into an excuse for an orgy?
Minerva's heels would have clicked angrily along with her thoughts as she swept down the corridor, except she was wearing slippers, it being well after midnight.
The scene in the Gryffindor common room had been amusing, if alarming. When she stepped—unnoticed, due to the din—through the portrait-hole, she took in the sight of several couples snogging sloppily among the dancers . . . and just where was Cormac McLaggen's hand on Demelza Robbins, and exactly when had she divested herself of her shirt?
In my day, we would never have—Minerva started to think, but then she caught herself.
In my day, we were doing exactly the same things. She added disapprovingly, But never in public.
With a wave of her wand, the lights came back up and the music stopped.
Screwing her features into the very portrait of outraged spinsterhood, she said, "This is unacceptable. Not only is the music far too loud for this time of night, but I am very disappointed to find that some of you appear to have forgotten yourselves entirely."
Miss Robbins hung her head and hurriedly tugged her shirt on. McLaggen, Minerva noted, just looked smug.
Some things never change, she sighed to herself.
"I expect this room to be tidied up—there's no reason the house-elves should have to clean up after you—and you all to be in your beds within the hour. Do I make myself clear?"
After the murmured assents, Minerva turned briskly and headed down the corridor to round up any stray couples who had (sensibly, she thought) adjourned to more private locations for their trysts.
"Mr Weasley, Miss Brown . . ."
The two teens leapt apart when they heard their Head of House's voice from the doorway.
"Might I suggest you close the door the next time you intend to engage in this kind of activity, hmm?"
"Yes, professor. Sorry . . . " mumbled Ronald.
Minerva then gave them a look that suggested they scurry off to the common room, which they, of course, immediately did.
She continued down the corridor, intending to roust the stray celebrants from the corners of the Tower and back into the common room, if not to their beds, when she was halted by the faint sound of luxurious sobbing.
The noise drew Minerva down the passageway as she quietly cocked an ear to each closed door. When she had located the source, she gently pushed the door open to reveal Hermione Granger, crying brokenly on a rickety chair in the disused classroom.
"Miss Granger?" she asked, stepping into the room a few paces. "Are you all right?"
"Fine, Professor," replied the girl, wiping her eyes on her sleeve. "I'm sorry. I'll get back to my dormitory now," she said, rising and heading for the door.
"Just a moment, Miss Granger." Minerva stepped toward her, conjuring a handkerchief and handing it to Hermione, who took it and blew her nose loudly.
"Thank you, Professor."
"Would your distress have anything to do with Mr Weasley and Miss Brown?" Minerva asked gently.
Hermione's eyes widened, and then filled with tears once again. She couldn't speak.
"I thought as much, " sighed Minerva.
Once Hermione had wiped her eyes and blown her nose again, she asked, "How did you know?"
"I ran into Mr Weasley and Miss Brown a few minutes ago. The rest was not hard to put together."
"You must think I'm an idiot," said Hermione miserably.
"Not at all. It hurts when we are betrayed by the people we love. Or think we do."
The child looked up at her teacher, stricken.
"I do . . . love him," Hermione said. "But he's just such a . . ."
"Git? Arse? . . . Man?"
Hermione smiled for the first time in hours. "All three. I don't even know why I love him so much . . ."
You are a teacher. Teach.
"Miss Granger . . . Hermione . . . you mustn't measure love by the degree to which someone is able to hurt you."
A rare look of confusion passed over Hermione Granger's puffy features.
"Just think about it," said Minerva, patting Hermione's arm. "And about how much you are willing to give and what you need to receive in return. Then decide whether or not Mr Weasley is worth your tears."
Once the portrait hole had shut behind her student, Minerva smiled to herself, a wry, sad smile.
Indeed, some things never change.
She could see from her bedroom window that the light was on in his office, indicating he had returned from wherever it was he had gone.
Popping into her feline form, she trotted silently through the castle until she came to his door, giving the password to the gargoyle, who yawned pointedly before opening to allow her passage.
Cheeky. Like its master.
He didn't hear her open the inner door to his office—probably because his eyes were closed and his head was lolling to one side as he snored gently.
Closing the door quietly behind her, Minerva approached Albus' chair, and moving around it, put her hands on his shoulders and began to knead them.
He sighed deeply and put his good hand up to cover hers.
"Thank you, my dear."
"You need to get more rest."
"You've been saying that for the past forty years."
"It's been true for the past forty years."
She continued rubbing his shoulders and smiled to herself when she felt him relax slightly under her ministrations.
As she rubbed, she asked, "Are you ever going to tell me what you do on these mysterious missions?"
"You know I can't."
"You mean you won't."
She didn't expect an answer to that, and she didn't get one. After a minute, she gave his shoulders a gentle pat and came around to sit on the large arm of his chair.
He winced a bit when the chair moved, jostling his charred hand.
"I'm sorry," Minerva said.
"It's quite all right," he replied.
She said, "I don't suppose you're ever going to tell me what happened to your hand, either."
"A tale for another day, perhaps, my angel."
"You still keep secrets from me, " she said, although she was smiling.
"I am sorry, Minerva—" he began, but she headed him off.
"It doesn't matter anymore, really."
And it didn't. His secrets were no longer hers.