One Hundred Six – The Unbreakable Vow; A Very Frosty Christmas; A Sluggish Memory
"I'm going to lose my mind," said McGonagall, falling into a chair in Dumbledore's office a few days later.
"Oh?" asked Dumbledore, pushing aside some papers and procuring cookies from one of the drawers in his desk. He offered the tray to his deputy, who took one of the sweets gratefully.
"My sixth years are hormonal monsters, presently," said McGonagall, eating half a cookie with one bite.
"Yes, I've heard bits and pieces about the lot of them," said Dumbledore with a chuckle. "I do not envy you in the slightest."
"Just earlier today, Weasley and Granger were sniping at each other in class," said McGonagall. "I'm about ready to lock them in my office and not let them out until they sort out their issues."
"I think we both know that would end quite poorly," said Dumbledore.
"But it would end," McGonagall pointed out.
Dumbledore shook his head with an amused expression on his face. "Simply because I can't resist the chance to add to your misery – "
"Yes, you're rather good at that," said McGonagall dully.
" – I have to ask if you've heard that Harry asked Miss Lovegood to Slughorn's party tonight," Dumbledore finished, as though he had not been interrupted.
"Of course I have," said McGonagall. "Peeves made sure the whole bloody school found out. Personally, I'm pleased as a niffler in Gringott's. No one suspects the pair will end up dating, and Lovegood's terribly excited. I think being around someone other than Ron or Hermione will be good for Harry, also. Lovegood's strange, but perceptive, when she chooses to be."
"Shall we go see for ourselves what observations Miss Lovegood might be making?" Dumbledore asked, looking at his pocket watch. "Horace's party started just a short while ago."
"You're not really considering going to that, are you?" McGonagall asked flatly.
"Delightful as you are currently being, Minerva," said Dumbledore with a distinct tinge of sarcasm, "I had thought a change of environment might be pleasing."
"You try juggling a horde of hormonal sixteen year olds, Albus, and then we'll see how delightful you are," McGonagall bit out.
"I served my time in that department," said Dumbledore pleasantly. "As said, I don't envy you in the slightest.
"Very well, a night in, then," said Dumbledore with a sigh. "I suppose it's for the best. I've neglected to show you how to use some of the magnificent tools in this office for far too long."
McGonagall's brows creased as Dumbledore grabbed one of the various silver trinkets off his shelf. She had seen the headmaster use the object only a few times in all the years she had known him. "Why now?"
"Oh, the mass chaos that war brings about makes one remember long-forgotten duties, I suppose," said Dumbledore nonchalantly. Without further ado, he leapt into a thorough explanation and history of the device before him that would have bored anyone but his deputy half to death. The pair were just getting to the point of actually using the object when Snape made a dramatic entrance.
"Dumbledore, I need to talk with you," said Snape. He did little to acknowledge McGonagall's presence other than to flick his eyes in her direction.
McGonagall sighed heavily and held up her hand before Dumbledore could find a polite way to dismiss her. "I know when I'm not wanted," said she. "Good night, Albus, Severus."
The two men waited until the door had closed behind the transfiguration mistress, then Dumbledore set about putting away the silver mystery device. "What news, Severus?"
"Draco will soon make another attempt on your life," said Snape, straight to the point. "He was caught hovering around Slughorn's party without an invitation. I pulled him aside, and he stated in no uncertain terms that he does not want my help, nor my advice."
"We expected this, did we not?" Dumbledore asked mildly, setting his silver contraption back in its proper spot.
"He says he's got a plan, that it's just taking longer than he thought," said Snape.
"Well he must have some serious doubts about said plan if he's making such foolish mistakes as he has been," said Dumbledore, seating himself again behind his desk. He folded his hands, inadvertently putting his withered one on display. "Were you able to use Legilimancy to gather any hints as to what this dastardly plot might be?"
"Bellatrix has taught the boy Occlumency," said Snape with a snarl.
"Unfortunate as that may be for us presently, that'll work in Draco's favor in the long term, I think," said Dumbledore. "What else?"
"Draco says he's being helped by others, besides Crabbe and Goyle."
"I should hope so," said Dumbledore with a hint of amusement. "I imagine those two would be more of a hindrance than a help. So Bellatrix is one of his allies, naturally, and we won't be able to get anything out of her. You must figure out who else has offered a helping hand.
"Have you an idea what his next abysmally foolish attempt on my life will be?" Dumbledore asked.
"I would assume something to do with Horace," said Snape.
"He's avoided easily enough," said Dumbledore with a shrug. "If you'd be so kind, I'd like you to find excuses to check on Horace regularly, in the event that Draco booby-trapped something and Horace trips it."
Snape grit his teeth, but nodded all the same.
"Wonderful," said Dumbledore with a smile. "Would you like a cookie, Severus?"
Snape looked at the offered treats with disgust before bidding the headmaster a goodnight.
McGonagall sat in her office a few days later, grading homework and sincerely wishing she could be doing anything else.
Suddenly, Hermione Granger slipped in, shut the door carefully, and set her ear against it. She seemed not to notice where she was.
McGonagall set her quill down and leaned back in her seat, quite intrigued by Hermione's behavior. She decided to simply wait. Perhaps Hermione would leave without ever taking stock of her environment and avoid the embarrassment. McGonagall was willing to forget if Hermione remained ignorant.
After a moment, Hermione sighed in relief. She turned around and set her back to the door, as though about to slide down it, and then froze in horror. "P-Professor McGonagall!" she stuttered.
"Good evening, Miss Granger," said McGonagall, quirking an eyebrow.
"I'm so sorry!" Hermione said quickly. "I just opened the first door I could around the corner – I didn't even think!"
McGonagall's brows pulled together. "From whom do you feel such a need to hide?" she asked.
"I-It's nothing," Hermione said in a very poor attempt at sounding casual.
"If someone is making you feel so uncomfortable, Miss Granger, it's my duty as your Head of House to see to the issue," said McGonagall seriously.
"It's very complicated, Professor," said Hermione, starting to blush. "It's my own fault, really. I just have to sort it out."
"Granger, – "
"Well, you see, I wanted to invite someone to go to Slughorn's Christmas party with me, but they were being a huge prat, so I decided to invite – someone else, and this someone else is just having a bit of trouble understanding that I didn't really mean anything by inviting them," said Hermione uncomfortably.
McGonagall looked at Hermione over the edge of her glasses until the girl crumbled and sat in the chair across her desk.
"I wanted to invite Ron," said Hermione very quickly. "When Harry started talking about the party, though, Ron got all upset and said I should just invite Cormac McLaggen and I – I said I just might."
Hermione looked down at her hands in her lap as her face flushed bright red.
McGonagall simply waited. There was more to the story, she was sure.
"I mean, Cormac had, er, shown interest in me before, but I just don't feel the same way at all," Hermione said quietly. "Ron's been very sore lately, and saying things that he just shouldn't, so I guess I just wanted to show him that there are consequences. All his friends were going to the party, and he could have too, if he'd just shut his mouth."
Despite the gravity of the situation, McGonagall found it difficult not to smile. The antics of teenagers never ceased to amuse and frustrate. "Have you attempted explaining your actions to Weasley?" she asked.
"He doesn't deserve an explanation," said Hermione hotly, looking up. "He was being stubborn, sore, and rude – and he still is! Do you know what he did in retaliation for me saying that I might ask Cormac?" she asked. Without waiting for a reply, she continued, "He asked out Lavender Brown, and the pair of them have been attached at the lip since!"
McGonagall bit the inside of her cheek to keep from snorting in amusement and derision. "Oh?" she said lightly.
"Surely it can't have escaped the staff's notice," Hermione said scathingly. "She's always crawling all over him, calling him ridiculous pet names. And he just sits there like an idiot. They look like absolute fools! Honestly, its sickening to see them in the common room."
"Miss Granger, have you considered Mr. Weasley's reasons for dating one of your roommates?" McGonagall asked.
"Yes, I have," said Hermione indignantly. "He's a prat."
McGonagall very nearly burst out laughing. "And when did Mr. Weasley and Miss Brown begin dating?" she asked, sounding like her usual self, despite her thoughts.
"The day of the Quidditch match," said Hermione, her voice rising slightly in pitch.
"I see," said McGonagall sagely. "And when did you ask Mr. McLaggen to Professor Slughorn's party?"
"The day of," Hermione squeaked.
"Ah, yes," said McGonagall slowly. "Would that, perchance, have been the same day you and Mr. Weasley were being particularly nasty to each other in my class?"
Hermione nodded and pursed her lips while looking down at her hands.
"I've seen this scenario more times than I can count," said McGonagall with a sigh. "One of you simply needs to break down and talk to the other. Continuing to try to hurt each other isn't going to achieve anything productive."
"Are you suggesting I approach him?" Hermione asked, aghast. "Absolutely not! I've done nothing wrong!"
McGonagall quirked an eyebrow.
"Well I hadn't, at least!" Hermione insisted. "I was quite prepared to be friendly – don't you remember me saying I was going to invite him to Slughorn's party? Now, as payment, I've got McLaggen following me around and I've got to deal with Ron and Lavender's almost constant snogging!" Suddenly, Hermione's eyes filled with tears. "It's been awful," she confessed.
McGonagall exhaled and leaned forward slightly. "I presumed as much," she said. "You're not usually so discomposed."
Hermione gave a weak laugh as she wiped away a few tears that had escaped. "I'm sorry," she said. "It's just been a rough few weeks. I can't talk to Harry about any of this because, well, he's Harry."
"Yes, boys are quite notorious for being difficult to speak with about emotions," McGonagall sympathized.
"And I can't talk with any of my roommates, because it'd get back to Lavender and she's being catty enough to me as it is," Hermione continued. "Ginny's got her own stuff going on with Dean. She doesn't need to deal with my issues, too." She wiped at her eyes with the sleeve of her robes.
McGonagall produced a handkerchief from her drawer and handed it over to Hermione.
"Thank you," said Hermione smally. "I'm sorry to bother you with this. It just kind of came out."
"Believe it or not, Miss Granger," said McGonagall, "I was young once. Take whatever time you need to collect yourself, say whatever else you need to get out of your system, then return to your dormitory. I'll write you an excuse note if you end up needing to be out past curfew."
"Thank you," said Hermione.
McGonagall returned to her grading. For the next half hour, Hermione made idle comments, paced, or simply sat in silence while staring absently at a wall. Once sufficiently calmed, she cleaned the handkerchief with a quick spell, returned it, thanked her professor, and left.
"Hilarious, really and truly," said McGonagall flatly upon entering the staffroom with her annual gag gift from Sprout – a bag of cat treats. She threw it at the Herbology professor before seating herself on a couch.
"You'd be disappointed if I didn't get you this, admit it!" Sprout demanded.
McGonagall rolled her eyes. "Absolutely heartbroken, Pomona."
"What'll it be, Minerva?" asked Flitwick from somewhere behind the kitchen island. "I'm bartending this year!"
"Merlin's beard, we'll all be out of our minds before sundown if you're mixing drinks," said McGonagall.
Flitwick peeped his head around the corner of the island to wink. "I'll surprise you then, shall I?" he asked, disappearing once again.
"Happy Christmas!" said Sinistra joyfully, throwing open the staffroom door and striding in. "Filius, I'll have a cinnamon roll, quick as you can, please!"
"We've got the firewhisky, but no cream soda this year, Aurora," said Flitwick. "What's your second choice?"
Sinistra ran over to the kitchen and began throwing open cabinets, insisting Flitwick must just be too short to see where the cream soda was stored.
"Don't tell her I drank the last of the cream soda last week," said Burbage quietly, seating herself by McGonagall and Sprout.
"Oh Aurora!" Sprout sang.
"Oi!" Burbage objected, throwing a pillow.
McGonagall burrowed further into the couch to watch the situation develop and observe whatever other shenanigans might occur.
Christmas festivities were in full swing by the time Snape slipped into the staffroom. He found himself a seat near McGonagall in a high-backed chair. "Who's the furthest gone?" he asked by way of greeting.
"Aurora's had some interesting cocktails," said McGonagall, nodding in the woman's direction. "Poppy's about ready to cut her off, I think."
Snape scoffed as he opened an abandoned magazine.
"Severus, I know you don't want me prying – "
"I have the most marvelous feeling you're going to pry, anyway," Snape drawled behind the magazine.
"Draco Malfoy," McGonagall began.
"Is a member of my house, and as such, my issue," said Snape. "I'm sure he'd be touched to hear of your concern for him, however."
"Well he has been marvelously out of sorts," said McGonagall with some amount of growl. "He's failed to turn in his work more often than not, and his grades have slipped dramatically. He's usually in the upper crust, but – "
"Minerva, his father's in Azkaban and currently on the bad side of the Dark Lord," said Snape irritably, snapping his reading material shut. "He's got other things on his mind besides schoolwork."
"It's the whole 'bad side of the Dark Lord' bit that's got me so concerned, Severus," McGonagall argued. She looked around herself quickly before lowering her voice to continue. "He's not being punished for Lucius's 'mistakes', is he?"
"If the Dark Lord were going to punish Lucius by way of his son, do you really think Draco would still be alive, Minerva?" Snape asked.
McGonagall shuddered horribly, then collected herself. "Very well, Severus, I won't continue to push, seeing as you're determined not to actually answer my questions. Know you haven't deceived me. Something's going on with the Malfoy family, and it's slowly destroying Draco."
"Minerva, if I were to deceive you, you would be none the wiser until it was too late," said Snape, disappearing behind the magazine once again.
McGonagall pursed her lips and glared at Snape for another moment before being distracted by Hagrid tripping over an armchair, falling, and laughing absurdly while Madame Pomfrey quickly rushed in to see if he had sustained any significant damage.
Late at night, McGonagall sat in Dumbledore's office. The pair had pulled up chairs near the fireplace and were enjoying high-quality scotch that McGonagall's brother had given her as a Christmas present.
"Bless Malcolm a thousand times over," said McGonagall, setting her feet on a small stool.
"I'm surprised you didn't save this for a particularly rough day of dealing with students," Dumbledore commented.
"And waste it?" McGonagall scoffed, clearly offended. "No, this is meant to be slowly enjoyed, not used to try to drown sorrows."
Dumbledore chuckled. "Of course. Forgive me, Minerva, for not having the appreciation for the drink that you do."
"Did Aberforth send you anything?" McGonagall asked with a quirked brow.
"Nothing worth mentioning," said Dumbledore. He attempted a smile, but McGonagall could easily see the sadness in his eyes. For as long as she knew, Aberforth had been sending his brother absurd, rude, or disgusting items in the place of gifts. She knew the reason well enough. While she was understanding of Aberforth's state of mind, she would have preferred he not send anything.
"I daresay you opened something of worth through the course of the day," said McGonagall, hoping to turn Dumbledore back to a more positive state of mind.
"Is this you trying to trick me into telling you my opinion of your gift, Minerva?" asked Dumbledore, twinkle back in his eye.
"Heaven's no," said McGonagall with the shake of her head. "Mine, of course, is your favorite. Who else knows you well enough to know you'd prefer to get a basket of absolute junk food than the most recently published books? How droll those must be."
"Droll indeed," Dumbledore conceded. "Especially the ones in which you're cited."
McGonagall met Dumbledore's teasing smirk with her hawk-like glare. Before she could retort, however, there was a knock on the door.
"Enter," called Dumbledore.
Remus Lupin came through the door and greeted the headmaster and his deputy cordially. "I trust you don't mind that I had Hagrid let me in. He was headed back from the staff party, or at least I should think so, judging by the volume of his singing."
McGonagall rolled her eyes while Dumbledore chuckled. She poured Lupin a glass of scotch while Dumbledore asked after the reason for his visit.
"Scrimgeour hasn't given up on Harry," said Lupin, gratefully accepting the drink offered. "He used Percy as his foot in the door to the Weasleys' earlier today, then had Harry walk him around the garden."
"The nerve!" McGonagall burst. "Percy left just as soon as he could, I assume?"
"Oh, yes. Well, to be fair, either one of the twins or Ginny threw food onto his face. Molly's been crying on and off all day," said Remus wearily.
"That boy deserves more than food to the face, if you ask me," said McGonagall bitterly. "And the nerve of Scrimgeour, to manipulate the Weasleys like that!" She huffed irritably and set her glass down harshly.
"Percy will come around eventually, Minerva," said Dumbledore soothingly. "As to the real reason Rufus made the journey to the Weasleys…"
Lupin sighed and took a sip of his drink before answering. "He's still after Harry. No surprise there."
"And Harry refused, I'm sure?" Dumbledore asked.
"Naturally," said Lupin. He grinned boyishly. "Gave the Minister quite the dressing down, I'd say, if the man's looks as Harry walked away are anything to judge by."
"Excellent," said McGonagall with a low laugh. "Made his parents proud, did he?"
"Made James proud, at any rate," said Lupin with a smile. "Lily would have gone for the throat a little sooner, I think."
"As amusing as we may find the Minister being put in his place by a sixteen-year-old," said Dumbledore, "we must acknowledge that it means Rufus has hit a wall in his efforts."
"I thought we'd come to that conclusion after he started chucking innocent people into Azkaban and keeping them there without any real reason," said McGonagall darkly.
"Minerva," Dumbledore warned.
McGonagall threw her hands up in the air before reclaiming her drink.
"Has anyone else had anything note-worthy occur today?" Lupin asked in an almost off-handed fashion, staring at the liquid in his glass.
McGonagall pursed her lips and looked at Dumbledore pointedly.
"As far as I'm aware, everyone's had an uneventful holiday aside from the Weasleys," said Dumbledore. "We've nothing to report."
"Good to know," said Lupin. He drained what was left of his beverage and stood. "I'd better get back to the colony. I'll lose what progress I've made if I'm away too long. Happy Christmas, Professors."
Dumbledore and McGonagall echoed Lupin's sentiments and watched him leave.
"Honestly," McGonagall huffed. "As if teenagers didn't provide enough romantic drama!"
Dumbledore laughed heartily. "They'll figure it out eventually. What say you to a few card games?"
"If you suggest Old Maid again, Albus, I will not be held responsible for any damage sustained by your office," McGonagall growled.
Dumbledore only smiled annoyingly as he summoned a deck of cards.
"Why does it have to be my office?" McGonagall asked irritably. "Can't we just use one of the fireplaces in the entrance hall?" She shot a nasty look at Sprout, who was laughing delightedly at the transfiguration mistress's plight.
"Are you suggesting you'd like to spend the day camped out in the entryway?" said Snape scathingly.
"You could do so just as easily," McGonagall growled.
"Rufus and I agreed on opening one fireplace and one fireplace only to the floo network," said Dumbledore patiently. "Quite frankly, I can't think of anyone I'd like to see less upon climbing out of a fireplace than you, Minerva, if I were a Death Eater. Besides, you'll be keeping track of who has arrived."
"You're cleaning up all the ash, Albus," said McGonagall. "And know that I'll haunt you until your dying day if I'm taken by surprise in my own office."
"Noted," said Dumbledore with just a twinge of a smile. "Filius, all the latest protective spells are in place?"
"Checked them only this morning," said Flitwick with a nod.
"Wonderful," said Dumbledore. "Now, we all know this semester is no safer than last. Students have been exposed to all sorts of news and rumors over holiday, I'm sure. You must make sure they do not become so complacent they attempt dodging our security efforts, nor become so paranoid they're unable to learn their material. I wish you all luck as the term proceeds."
"That was truly inspirational, Albus," said Sprout with dull sarcasm. "I could take on the world now."
"Always a delight, Pomona," said Dumbledore cheerfully. "On you go! Students will start arriving shortly."
McGonagall groaned with displeasure at the thought of hundreds of students tromping through her office with their shoes covered in soot. Nonetheless, she composed herself, gathered her work, and settled in at her desk for the long day.
Minerva, did you really set the latest password on Gryffindor tower to "abstinence"?
Obviously, or it wouldn't be on your latest update.
They're not being subtle. Why should I?
It's always such fun to see you descending into the depths of pettiness for vengeance on your students.
It seemed a fitting password on many fronts. The Fat Lady's been hungover for days now.
Was that her that cleaned out the picture of the drunk monks?
Her and that Violet portrait.
The monks were more than a little upset. They've made sure to express as much to me.
You can't hide behind the Fat Lady, Minerva.
Watch me, Severus.
You know it'll do nothing to curb the ridiculous behavior of your students?
I can hope.
Says the minister's daughter. I'm sorry to say they just won't share the same morals as you.
Pray tell, Severus, what's Slytherin's latest password?
Well, it's nothing to do with overt suggestions to behavior, if that's what you're asking.
I'm keeping out of this.
You started it!
I asked a simple question with innocence. That is all. I hardly think I'm to blame for whatever madness has followed.
McGonagall was denied the chance of responding to Flitwick by Slughorn squeezing himself through her open door.
"Good morning, Minerva!" said Slughorn cheerily.
"Horace," McGonagall greeted. "What brings you here?"
"I'm wondering if Harry's made it back just yet?" Slughorn asked.
McGonagall's face clouded over. "No, Horace, he hasn't. I imagine he'll want to go straight to the dormitories and settle back in upon arrival, however, so there's no need for you to hang around here."
Slughorn dithered for several more minutes before finally conceding and exiting the office.
McGonagall exhaled heavily through her nose and had been about to lean back in her chair when her fireplace glowed green. She quickly set her quill to the stack of papers on her desk. "Miss Granger," she said upon seeing the student tumble out of the grate.
"Professor McGonagall," Hermione greeted with a smile. "Have a good holiday?"
"Pleasantly uneventful," said McGonagall. "Yourself?"
"More or less the same," said Hermione. "Mum and Dad weren't to thrilled with the idea of me stepping into their fireplace. Their reaction was about the most interesting thing that happened all break."
McGonagall allowed the shadow of a smile to cross over her face before directing Hermione to be careful of the soot she was carrying. The girl drew her wand, cleaned her robes, and exited the office.
So it was for the rest of the day until, finally, the last student on the roster came through McGonagall's fireplace. With hardly a second lost, she put her fire out and sent word to Flitwick to see to the closing of the network again. She then eagerly proceeded to the kitchens, having been sustaining herself on random snacks stowed away in her desk all day.
Have I mentioned recently how interesting Charms is with your sixth years, Minerva?
Alright, who did what this time?
Finnigan wasn't paying attention and sent Filius to the ground with a jet of water.
Glad to know you're on the case, Pomona.
I trust you set him to writing lines?
"I am a wizard, not a baboon brandishing a stick."
Seems fitting. Just you wait. Soon ALL the sixth years will be losing their minds. They start Apparition in a few weeks.
Speaking of sixth years losing their minds…
Am I about to punch you in the face, Pomona?
Have you noticed that Ron Weasley's started skirting around Miss Brown?
As I told you would happen before long. Give it another week or two and he'll be avoiding her awkwardly while she stares at him murderously. Discussion closed.
Oh, but I've got so much more to share!
I'm sure your pygmy puff would like to hear all about it, but not me.
Yes, dear Athena is a much better conversationalist than you.
I would have it no other way. Now be gone!
"You did what, Albus?" McGonagall asked shrilly.
"Well I assure you it was no great pleasure, Minerva," said Dumbledore.
"You couldn't have gotten away from him some other way? You had to jinx him?"
"Dawlish is remarkably tenacious, when he puts his mind to it," said Dumbledore with a shrug. "I led him in circles several times, hoping to disengage him. Eventually, he left me with no other option. I couldn't delay my journey any longer. So, yes, I jinxed Dawlish to end his following me."
McGonagall pinched the bridge of her nose beneath her glasses. "As if things between Hogwarts and the Ministry haven't been strenuous enough," she muttered.
"Between Rufus and myself, you mean," said Dumbledore with a knowing smile.
"I was attempting to be delicate," said McGonagall.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't impressed with your unprompted attempt," Dumbledore admitted with a chuckle. "Are all my efforts to get you to play the game of politics finally paying off?"
"Seeing as you've decided to be less tactful in the past months, I figured it'd probably be in our best interest for me to pick up some of the slack," said McGonagall dully.
"I've been applying my energy to other tasks besides keeping in political grace," said Dumbledore by way of explanation.
"Yes, I've noticed. Traveling as much as you have been must be quite taxing."
"Try to guilt me all you'd like, Minerva," said Dumbledore, "I'll still not tell you where I've been going."
McGonagall's nostrils flared savagely. "Well, just so you know, if you ever miss you're estimated time of arrival by even twelve hours, you won't have an office when you get back," she snapped. "I'll have moved in by then."
Dumbledore chuckled. "I'll keep that in mind. Now, - "
"You have a lesson with Harry, I know," McGonagall droned. She hauled her weight out of her chair. She sighed heavily. "I don't know that I'll ever understand this, Albus."
"And it bothers you immensely, I'm aware," said Dumbledore with a slight bow of his head. "I'm sorry it has to be this way."
McGonagall bid Dumbledore a terse goodnight before making her exit.
-pokes head out from behind real life responsibilities- Oh, hey! Thanks for continuing to read and review despite the appallingly long gaps between updates! I hope you enjoyed this chapter, my lovelies!
Addition: I re-uploaded the chapter, adding the scene with Hermione's breakdown. I'd written it a long time ago, actually, and forgot to put it into the story where it belonged. Oops! I hope you enjoyed it!