Weary of Secrets
Minerva leaned forward and narrowed her eyes in stern concentration. She hooked her left index finger and bit down on the bend of the knuckle until there were slight teeth prints, a nervous habit from her youth that she had never managed to break. She looked up into Albus's softened, innocent-looking eyes, hoping to find some kind of definitive answer written there. He was far too skilled, however, and familiar with her methods to give her even the smallest beneficial hint. She sighed silently as she lowered her eyes once more, determined he would not see her weakness. A single move on the chessboard stood between Minerva and glorious victory... or shameful defeat.
A sudden, frantic pounding at the door caused Minerva to jolt so vigorously she nearly caused her game pieces to topple to the floor.
"Come in," Albus called calmly, though Minerva detected the hint of disappointment in his voice.
Argus Filch, jowls quivering from apparently having run there, threw open the door and made a growling sound in his throat as he pushed Harry Potter inside.
"I found this one here sneaking around the corridor by the kitchens," Filch said, indicating Harry and looking quite satisfied with himself.
Minerva rolled her eyes as she briefly turned back to Albus. Harry looked more frightened now, presumably from facing both the Headmaster and Deputy Headmistress at the same time.
"Thank you, Argus," Albus said with a nod. "You may go."
The smirk fell like a stone from Filch's haggard face.
He pointed weakly to Harry as if not trusting that justice would be served in his own absence. He sighed, crestfallen, and grumpily exited the Headmaster's office, muttering something nasty under his breath as he did so. Harry's eyes grew large, and he swallowed hard, certain that he was already doomed for detention.
"Sir, I can explain," he began hurriedly. "You see, I was only–"
But before Harry could explain himself or Albus could stop him, a loud crack interrupted their attention. A small, dainty-looking house elf appeared to Harry's left. She was wearing an ivory-colored knitted tea cozy and balancing two large, steaming drinking mugs on a tarnished silver platter.
"Olivia has brought more hot chocolate, Professors Dumbledore!" the house elf proclaimed proudly.
At the unusual address, Harry turned his head back toward the professors so quickly his neck popped, and Minerva looked distinctly as if she would vomit. Albus and Olivia, as she was apparently called, both appeared altogether unfazed.
"Thank you, Olivia," Minerva spoke at last, her voice slightly higher than normal. "You may leave them here."
The house elf scurried over to leave the mugs on the desk as instructed. Her bright eyes widened considerably as they landed upon the scar on Harry's forehead. She stopped suddenly in her tracks and sucked in an excited gasp.
"Harry Potter, sir!" she exclaimed as she gave a little skip in place. "It is an honor to finally meet you!"
Harry made his best attempt at a smile at the house elf, causing her to twist her waist side to side with glee, her tea cozy twirling against her like a young girl's sundress.
"Goodnight, Olivia," Albus spoke kindly.
"Goodnight, Professors Dumbledore! It is a pleasure to serve!" she replied, waving happily. "Goodnight, Mister Harry Potter, sir!"
With another crack, Olivia disappeared, leaving Harry to wonder exactly what had happened here. Minerva's lips were pulled into a taut, thin line, and he feared that she may start shouting at him, though he was certain (despite being certain of so very little at the moment) that whatever indiscretion had occurred was not his fault.
"Go back to your bed, Mister Potter," Minerva told him.
For a moment, he wondered when, not if, he would receive his detention sentence. A more pressing question intrigued him now, however.
"Professors... um... are you–"
"I can't hear you," she cut him off abruptly, curtly holding up a hand to him. "I can't hear you because you're already heading back to your rooms, as I instructed."
Harry, still not satisfied but willingly accepting defeat over eminent severe punishment, was quick to do as he was told.
After the door clicked shut and she was sure that Harry was no longer near, Minerva released an exasperated groan and thumped an abandoned chesspiece so that it rolled across the table.
"I vote we abolish house elf labor at Hogwarts," she grumbled.
"Olivia means well," Albus replied with a hearty chuckle.
"But Albus... in front of a student!"
"It was only Harry," he said, eyes still bright with amusement.
Minerva frowned, not at all convinced that this made any difference.
"Besides," Albus went on, "sometimes I grow weary of always having to keep my exquisitely beautiful wife a secret."