The care I had and have of subjects' good
On thee I lay whose wisdom's strength can bear it.
- From Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Though she never would have admitted it to her colleagues, Minerva McGonagall's favourite class to teach this year was the fourth year Hufflepuffs. There were forty-six of them, but they were less trouble to manage than a group half that size. They were quiet, diligent and dedicated, and quite a few of them were reasonably talented. Even those who lacked any special flair for Transfiguration were exceptionally hard-working, putting in their very best effort during every lesson. There was not an indolent or an insolent individual among them. They were cheerful, earnest, and reliable. In fifteen years Minerva had not seen such an uncannily well-behaved group of young people, and she was determined to enjoy their tutelage as long as she could.
Certainly they made for a very pleasant start to the day, and it was with a glad heart that Minerva rose from the staff table to make her way to her classroom after breakfast. Her fourth years had been working on Vanishing for nearly two weeks, and they were quickly set to work practicing on toadstools. Without having to worry about whether someone was going to accidentally set a desk alight, or whether some enterprising youth was going to try to Vanish the undergarments of the girl sitting in front of him, Minerva was able to bring out the stack of third year essays that she had collected over the last two days. She liked to make it a point to have an assignment graded and returned within a week; on those occasions when she knew that her workload would not allow it she preferred to push back the deadline rather than to force her students to wait longer for their evaluated work. It seemed only fair to be as stringent with her own standards as she was with theirs.
After the fourth year Hufflepuffs she taught Ravenclaw first years. They were an eager and raucous bunch, constantly clamouring for the chance to answer a question or to show off the fact that they had completed the assigned readings. As usual Ilythia Smythe was the first to raise her hand whenever Minerva called upon the class, but today little Davey Gudgeon seemed particularly eager to impress and was never far behind her. Minerva wondered whether someone had tipped the boy off that James Potter in second year was something of a dab hand at Transfiguration. She had noticed that Potter had been acquiring something of a following of younger-years, doubtless as a result of his stellar performance on the Quidditch pitch.
Once she had set the day's problems for her young students to puzzle over, Minerva took her seat. Grading anything during this class was ill-advised. Not only was she likely to be interrupted every few minutes with an unnecessarily erudite question bent on making the material more complicated than it was, but she had to keep an eye out for the Ollivander girls – who were particularly fond of jinxing their neighbours' quills. So, while keeping a hawk's eye on her charges, Minerva let her mind wander to more amusing subjects – specifically Quidditch and Gryffindor's prospects this year.
She had had her misgivings when she appointed Eldritch McKinnon to the post of Quidditch Captain. He was, after all, only in fourth year and for all his passion lacked some of the levelheadedness of his predecessor. But his older teammates were either unsuitable for the job, or they had declined the responsibility in order to focus more of their time on their NEWTs. She could not fault them for that, of course, but she had still been reluctant to put McKinnon in charge. Happily her reservations had proved unfounded. McKinnon had taken charge nicely; he had taken the initiative to replace his struggling Chaser, and the new players he had selected were all very strong, James Potter especially. After last year's poor showing against Hufflepuff, Minerva was looking forward to an exhilarating race that would end, she hoped, with the Quidditch Cup once more in her office.
She slipped between these thoughts and the needs of her class for an hour. Then her OWLs Slytherins came in, and she had no time to let her mind wander to anything but the task at hand. Fifth year was always challenging. It was a matter of pride for her to ensure that each one of her students made the very best showing that he or she was able, and some of them seemed determined to make that goal as difficult as possible to achieve. She did not understand the resistance that some young people exerted against working to their full potential, but she ran into it again and again. She could find it in herself to be patient with the ones who gave an earnest effort and still struggled, but the bright ones who refused to try were a bitter affliction.
There were several of these in Slytherin House, and some were among her fifth years. Lestrange was the worst of these, and the fact that his family's position made him something of a ringleader among his classmates aggravated the problem. He never exerted more than a minimum in lessons or on exams, and only once in his five years in her class had he handed in an assignment on time. Even then his effort had been somewhat overshadowed by the fact that he had neglected to write his name on the top of the roll of parchment, forcing Minerva to resort to forensic graphology in order to identify the author. Confronting the boy was useless: her disapproval was obviously meaningless to him, his attitude towards detention was even more laconic than his attitude towards lessons, and no matter how many House points she deducted he would always manage to wheedle them back from Horace Slughorn – whose awe at the boy's pedigree quite overwhelmed any qualms about his personal character.
Of course there was something else about the elder Lestrange that concerned Minerva. There were rumours that he was one of the bigger boys instigating extremely unsavoury behaviour in his junior housemates. There had been numerous incidents of bullying that had come to the attention of the staff, which meant there were at least twice as many that had gone unreported. Though half a dozen of these had been traced to sibling rivalry or to Black and Potter executing practical pleasantries that were anything but pleasant for the injured parties, the general consensus among the students was that a gang of older Slytherins stood behind most of them. The hexing of the youngest Smythe girl had been a prime example, and though she had been more humiliated than harmed and her hair was growing back very nicely it was precisely the sort of thing that Minerva found intolerable. Yet all the perpetrators who had been caught had been in fourth year or below, and none of them had confessed to being egged on by older youths. Professor Slughorn did not seem interested in investigating further, despite Minerva's urgings, and what went on in the sanctuary of the Slytherin common room was outside of her jurisdiction even as Deputy Headmistress. Instead she had to content herself with keeping a watchful eye on Lestrange whenever she could, which included the hours he spent in her classroom each week.
It was a tremendous relief when the lesson ended and the OWLs students filed out. Lestrange was, of course, among the first through the door – and not merely because many of his classmates stood aside in deference to him. It was oddly satisfying, thought Minerva, that he evidently disliked her presence at least as much as she disliked his. When the last of her pupils were gone, Minerva did a quick walk of the classroom, sweeping for dormant jinxes or forgotten possessions. All that she found today was a crumpled copy of the morning's newspaper, which she sent shooting for the wastebasket with a flick of her wand. Satisfied that all was in order, she locked the door with care and made her way to the Great Hall for the noon meal.
Several of her colleagues were already seated when she arrived, and the House tables were already thronging with hungry adolescents. Minerva strode along the dais to her customary seat at the Headmaster's side. It was always pleasant to dine with Albus, who had the gift of keeping one engaged in pleasant conversation that never drifted off into irrelevance. Aside from one minor incident in which she had to quell a pair of Gryffindor first years who were flicking boiled peas at one another, the meal passed uneventfully. Soon enough it was time to return to her lessons.
Second year was a heavy one in Transfiguration, building on the elementary foundation the students had received the year before and demanding as much from them as could be reasonably expected, before the added course load in third year cut into their time to study and practice. For that reason, the second years had a double lesson, and Minerva had Gryffindor this afternoon. She was not at all surprised to find that Betta MacFusty and her friends were waiting outside the classroom: all of them were dedicated students, and often early to arrive for lessons. She let them in, exchanging a polite good afternoon with Miss Evans, and set about organizing her desk for the afternoon while the rest of the second years arrived.
She was just about to call the class to order despite the handful of empty seats when the door slid open and three boys filed in. One was smiling sheepishly; another looked positively terrified. The third wore a lazy grin that despite its insolent caste was undeniably charming.
'We're sorry, Professor,' the second boy stammered. 'We were in the library and we lost track of the time, and…'
His grinning friend cuffed him playfully. 'We've got nothing to be sorry for: we're not late,' he said happily. 'Are we, Professor?
'Not if you are in your seats within the next eight and a half seconds, Black, no,' Minerva said frankly, careful to keep any hint of amusement from her face as the three of them scrambled for the nearest vacant tables. As usual, Potter and Pettigrew sat together. This left Black alone, the empty chair beside him an uncomfortable reminder of the reason for the absence of the fourth member of their little gang.
Minerva commenced with the lesson, eager for a distraction from unsettling thoughts. It was one thing to come to terms with the fact that one of one's pupils suffered from lycanthropy; it was quite another to accept that a patient, shy and generally quite pleasant young boy was forced to endure such indignity and anguish every month. In October Poppy Pomfrey had called upon Minerva for assistance after a particularly tortured transformation, and the memory of holding the bony body down while the matron struggled to stem the bleeding from a cavernous wound large enough to stuff with two fists lingered vividly in Minerva's mind. Before the shocking conversation in which Albus – perfectly calm and matter-of-fact – had informed her that a werewolf had just been Sorted into her House, Minerva had never had much occasion to think about the plight of part-humans. Of course she had the usual Defence Against the Dark Arts background, and she had studied the anatomical particulars of the human-to-wolf transformation in the course of preparing to become an Animagus, but it had never occurred to her that werewolves were so very much more than merely part human. Therefore it had never occurred to her how ghastly the involuntary horrors they suffered truly were.
She hated to think of Remus Lupin, who was quiet and intelligent and always so very polite – everything, in short, that was desirable in a pupil – languishing in the hospital wing after a long night of tearing at himself with claws and cursed fangs. Minerva was well past the age at which one stopped expecting life to be fair, but this injustice was almost too much for her.
So she tried not to think about it while she taught a lesson that he ought to have been there to hear. She made every effort to avoid looking at the vacant chair beside Black, and to forget that she had counted out one pear too many from her stores that morning. The lesson was quieter than usual, chiefly because Lupin's friends were making every effort to stay out of trouble. They refrained from their usual whispered commentary on everything she said, they set about their classwork with uncharacteristic diligence, and they made no attempt to jinx or otherwise harass their neighbours.
Minerva had come to expect such exemplary behaviour in the days after the full moon: since the three boys had discovered their friend's secret they had proved uncommonly determined to stay out of detention so that they could visit him in the afternoons. Of course, anything that helped to keep Black and Potter on their best behaviour was a boon, but she particularly respected their motivation in this case. Though Albus had not seemed in the least bit astonished by the reaction the other boys had had to the truth, Minerva was quietly in awe. She had not expected boys of that age to prove so loyal, or indeed so open-minded. Black's reaction, especially, had left her with nothing but an almost aching respect and pride that the young man was a member of her House. She knew the upbringing that he had to overcome in order to be friends with Remus Lupin, half-blood. It was all the more remarkable that he accepted Remus Lupin, werewolf, with the same generosity of spirit.
It was that, as much as anything, that convinced Minerva that despite their penchant for mischief and their general disregard for rules laid down for their own and others' safety Sirius Black and James Potter were truly good at heart. So despite their impressive array of detentions and lost House points, despite exploding Christmas turkeys and firecrackers in the corridors and attempts to sneak into the staff room, she was inclined to think well of them. Even their recent attack on Rabastan Lestrange – which on the surface was yet another example of inappropriate hexing of a firstie by older students – was not entirely unforgivable, as witnesses generally agreed it was retaliation for the younger Lestrange brother's bullying of his classmates. Despite their high-spirited and frequently frustrating antics, Black and Potter were worthy members of her House, and their treatment of Lupin only proved it.
Friday afternoons were long ones. After the Gryffindors filed out their counterparts in Ravenclaw came in for another two-hour lesson. Then those of Minerva's NEWTs students most determined to make a good showing on their exams turned up for their calculations tutorial, which carried through until suppertime. She did not linger over her meal, for she had an appointment to meet Professor Kettleburn in the staff room to discuss his request to import several dangerous animals for his OWLs students. Just when she had finally convinced him that the Ministry was not going to approve the importing of a Norwegian Ridgeback, half-grown or not, for educational purposes, Professor Finley came in to ask about the status of his own proposal to have additional funds allocated to his department for research purposes. It was half past eight when Minerva was at last able to reassure him with the promise to look over his prospectus and discuss it with the Headmaster on Monday.
There was nothing quite so delicious as closing the door to one's office upon the tail of a busy but rewarding day. Alone at last, Minerva removed her hat and unlaced her neat black witch's boots. A twitch of her wand brought her tea service – bone china hand-painted with thistles – from the cupboard, and a quick tap sent a shower of steam from the spout of the stout little pot. While her tea was steeping she opened the hidden door that led to her bedchamber. Here she stepped out of her boots entirely, replacing them with warm woollen slippers. She also removed her belt and plucked the pins from her hair, letting it fall in a fat coil down her back. She took the hairbrush from her dressing table and moved back into her outer office. By now the teapot was giving out a scintillating aroma, and she Levitated it to the little table by the fire before settling contentedly into her armchair. She Summoned the tin of Ginger Newts, and fished out one of the spicy biscuits.
She felt the tensions of the day ebb gently away, leaving only the quiet satisfaction that came from the knowledge that she had once again done her job well. Her students had learned a thing or two, her colleagues were satisfied or at least placated, and the usual troublemakers had been reasonably well-behaved. If it were not for the shadows brewing in the world beyond the safety of the school walls she would have been perfectly content.
A soft rapping at the door roused her from this pleasant reverie. She sat up straight in her chair, wondering whether she ought to pin up her hair before she answered the door. Deciding that it was unlikely to be a student seeking her out at this hour, she swallowed the tea she had been savouring on her tongue and cleared her throat.
'You may enter,' she said. On command the door released its charmed latch and swung inward. The silhouette of a plaited coronet against the torchlight in the corridor immediately preceded the crystallization of misty green into a clear tweed pattern. In came Professor Brynna Meyrigg, current occupant of the Defence Against the Dark Arts post.
'Am I interrupting your quiet evening in, Minerva?' she asked, stepping over the threshold. She was wearing her travel cloak and carrying the little case that she always took with her on her weekends away. 'I was about to head off, but there is something I wanted to speak to you about.'
'Of course, Brynna; come in,' Minerva said. She trained her wand on the other armchair and it slid neatly to the hearth. The younger woman closed the door and set her case beside it before moving to sit. 'Milk and one lump of sugar, I think?'
Brynna nodded and Minerva poured a second cup of tea. She leaned in to pass it: it was rude to send beverages flying magically towards a welcome visitor, and unexpected though the other teacher was she was always welcome. Brynna accepted the tea, but shook her head at the offer of a biscuit, sipping cautiously at the steaming fluid. She seemed hesitant to speak. Minerva let the silence drift for a little while, just in case. When nothing was forthcoming she set down her saucer and folded her hands before her.
'Now, then,' she said. She was of the opinion that there was no use in skirting about uncomfortable issues: the sooner the truth was out the sooner it could be dealt with. 'What is it that's troubled you enough to delay your departure? Quite frankly I expected you to be in Croydon by now.'
'I planned to be,' said Brynna. There was a little furrow of worry in her brow. It had not escaped the Deputy Headmistress's notice that she had seemed weary and worn of late, as if weighed down with burdens even greater than those she had brought with her in September. Though of course the nature of her husband's work for Dumbledore's fledgling Order would be taxing to anyone, Minerva had been wondering for some time now whether there was something else at play. Now she sat patiently, listening. It seemed as if whatever it was, it was about to come to light.
Brynna shifted uncomfortably in her seat, fingers playing restively against the side of her teacup. She had always been a straightforward, hard-headed woman; not at all the sort to act so reticently. Minerva's unease was mounting, but she kept her expression serene and open as she waited.
'It's about a student,' said Brynna. 'A mutual student.' That was accompanied by a hoarse half-laugh and a wafting gesture of her free hand. 'I mean, of course a mutual student; I would scarcely come to speak to you about a student who wasn't in one of my classes, and unless it was someone in Hufflepuff or Slytherin or Ravenclaw who wasn't also taking Transfiguration…' She closed her eyes and her head twitched slightly to the left as if she realized she was rambling and wanted to rein herself in.
'One of our mutual students,' she said. 'Remus Lupin, in Gryffindor. He was absent from my lesson this morning.'
Minerva took a slow sip of tea and nodded solemnly. 'He was not in Transfiguration this afternoon, either,' she said. 'I believe that he is ill.'
'You believe?' The younger woman's tone was almost scornful. She grimaced ever so slightly. 'I don't mean that as it sounded, Minerva,' she said. 'I'm tired and I am afraid it's affecting my manners. I did not get much sleep last night.'
Nor did Lupin, McGonagall thought, but of course she was not imprudent enough to say it. 'I understand,' she said. 'He is a student in my House, and I ought to know whether or not he is ill, is that it?'
'That makes it sound even worse,' Brynna said; 'as if I'm questioning your competence as Head of House. I wouldn't even mention it in the ordinary way of things, but this is not the first time it has happened, and I'm beginning to wonder.'
'Yes, of course,' said Minerva. 'That is only natural. The boy is not malingering, I promise you. Despite the company he keeps he is not at all the sort to do something like that.'
'The company he keeps.' This time the quiet laugh was less self-deprecating, and Brynna's eyes sparkled playfully. It made her look years younger, and Minerva was suddenly reminded of a young Beater caught sliding down the bannister of the great marble staircase. 'Did you know that he and Sirius Black mounted an expedition into my office while I was away for Christmas?' she asked.
Minerva stiffened reflexively. 'I most certainly did not,' she said. 'I shall see to it that the pair of them are properly chastised…'
'I've already seen to that,' said Brynna. 'As far as I can gather, Sirius is curious about my weekly absences. I'm almost certain that he dragged Remus along against his better judgement. Remus was very apologetic.'
'I imagine that Black was not,' McGonagall said ruefully. 'Did they damage anything?'
'No, not at all,' said Brynna blithely. 'They rummaged through my desk drawers and they engaged in a little art-spotting, but that is the extent of it.' She smiled quizzically. 'It didn't seem to occur to them to check the contents of my bookshelves, which is where I would begin if I were making a search of someone's life…'
'I do hope you weren't too lenient, Brynna,' Minerva remarked, clearing her throat pointedly. 'That they did no harm does not excuse the fact that they were engaged in tremendously unacceptable behaviour. They ought to have been punished, not merely let off with a warning.'
'I'm aware of that, Minerva: do credit me with more sense,' said the younger teacher. 'I set them detention, grading first year examinations. It was a veritable torment for Sirius, I promise.'
'And for Lupin?' McGonagall raised an eyebrow. At this time of the month she did not much like the idea of tormenting the boy any more than necessary.
Brynna shook her head. 'I'm afraid he quite enjoyed it. The shock of being caught was punishment enough, I think. It wasn't as though the thing was his idea.' She took a long quaff of her tea and exhaled slowly through her nose. 'He wrote some wonderfully encouraging remarks, as well. He has a knack for helping others along in their studies.'
'That I have certainly noticed,' Minerva agreed. 'I doubt that Pettigrew would be able to keep pace with the class if it weren't for Lupin nudging him along.'
'It doesn't do any harm, surely,' said Brynna. 'If anything Remus is learning twice as much so that he can keep Peter on the right path, and I don't think he does any of the work for him, precisely. He just…'
'Tutors him,' said Minerva. At the faint surprise on the other woman's face she gestured pointedly. 'Well, that's what we would call it if Lupin were a couple of years older, wouldn't we?'
'I suppose it is,' said Brynna. Her expression was very soft for a moment. Minerva was beginning to suspect that the young teacher was uncommonly fond of her quiet, dedicated little pupil. 'He's one of my very best students,' she said, as if she had read her superior's mind. 'That's why I am concerned to see him missing so many lessons. He works so hard, learning for himself and helping Peter and keeping James and Sirius on top of their assignments, and then every few weeks he misses a lesson or two and he has to work even harder to keep up.'
'I have found that he is doing an exemplary job,' said Minerva. 'I know that none of his other teachers have complained that his work has suffered…'
'It hasn't!' Brynna said hastily. 'But that's just it. His work hasn't suffered, but I'm concerned that perhaps his health has. It cannot be easy to keep up the pace that he does, not with these illnesses. Are we quite certain that whatever is wrong with him isn't caused or at least worsened by exhaustion and emotional strain? Don't you think perhaps that we should do something to lighten the load for him?'
It was a reasonable question, and one that Minerva had pondered herself in the boy's early months at Hogwarts. She had once gone so far as to mention it to Albus, after an incident when Lupin had forgotten to bring his textbook to class shortly after a transformation. The Headmaster's words echoed in her mind now, and she pared them carefully before repeating them.
'Remus Lupin's parents have sent him to school so that he can get an education,' she said; ' the same excellent education that we give to all of our students. If we were to expect less of him because… because he is occasionally ill, then we would be doing him a great disservice. If he is to learn that—' She hesitated, faltering for a moment where Albus had said that his condition does not preclude him from a rich and happy life. She drew another sip of tea and went on as if she had not paused. 'If he is to learn all that he ought to learn at Hogwarts he is going to have to keep pace with his classmates. I have seen enough of his courage and determination to know that he is more than capable of that, Brynna; I promise.'
Brynna's gaze flitted down into her lap and she sighed softly. 'Of course, Minerva: I understand that,' she said. 'I only thought perhaps there was something we could do to help him.'
For a single crystalline moment Minerva considered telling her the truth. If anyone was likely to accept the truth about Lupin in a calm and reasonable manner it was Brynna Meyrigg. She was a sensible witch, and she was not bound by the prejudices so often seen in pure-blooded houses. She obviously had a fondness for Lupin, and Minerva knew that it was far harder to strip the humanity from someone one knew and liked than from a stranger. It might even make it easier for Lupin to have one more person in his vanguard who knew his secret and did not hate him for it.
But the secret, she realized, was not hers to tell. The child had never said a word, of course, but she had come away from their first conversation on the subject with the distinct impression that he had been hurt to learn that the Headmaster had told her the truth without consulting him. Though she could not fault Albus his reasons, she did not have the same inclination to disregarding the privacy of others in the name of expediency.
'I am doing everything that I can to help him,' she said. 'As are his parents, and Poppy Pomfrey, and even the Headmaster. You needn't worry, Brynna. The matter is in hand. We are taking care of him. Goodness knows you have enough to fret about without this: let us look after Lupin.'
The Welshwoman gave her a long, inscrutable look. 'That's all I am going to get from you, isn't it?' she said. 'You aren't even going to give me an inkling of what's wrong, or whether it's likely to get any worse, or even if it's something he's going to recover from or something that is going to kill him.'
Silence was the best answer that Minerva could offer.
Meyrigg sighed and shrugged her shoulders. 'Well, at least the matter is in hand,' she said. 'And I think that I am going to excuse him from homework assigned in his absence – assuming that it happens again.'
'Assuming that it happens again,' said Minerva levelly; 'that is certainly your prerogative. I do not think he needs as much guidance from daily assignments as many of his classmates do.'
For a moment Brynna only watched her wordlessly. Then she smiled, a small and weary smile. 'Thank you for the tea and platitudes,' she said, wryly but not bitterly. 'I am glad to know that you're aware of the issue and that you're looking after him, Minerva, truly I am. There is no one I would rather trust with the welfare of a student.'
And there was no higher compliment that a teacher could hope to receive. Minerva inclined her head. 'Thank you, Brynna,' she said. She smiled then, very gently. 'Be sure to save some of your worry for yourself, as well.'
The other woman's eyes shifted, suddenly guarded, and her hand snaked down under her cloak, fingertips pressing just below the buckle of her belt. 'Minerva,' she said, even more hesitantly than she had first made mention of her concern. 'What do you suppose that Dumbledore would do if he found out that someone in the Order was… that is to say, might be… as it were…'
Suddenly she flushed brilliantly and bit down on her lower lip.
'Was what, Brynna?' Minerva asked. She could not think what the woman had been about to say, but she prayed that it had nothing to do with Owyn Meyrigg. He was a strong soul, she knew, but his assignment was a dreadful one and even the bravest sometimes faltered.
'Nothing. Nothing at all,' whispered Meyrigg. She shook her head resolutely. 'I'm quite sure that I'm not, and anyway if I were the matter would be in hand.' She got to her feet and shook out her cloak so that it fell properly around her. 'I must be going,' she said. 'Owyn will be expecting me by ten o'clock, and I don't like to keep him waiting in the street any longer than I have to.'
Minerva rose, setting aside the teacup and trying to ignore the vague uneasiness that always came from standing next to a shod person when one was out of one's shoes; as though the world itself were slightly out of proportion. 'Naturally,' she said. She could not find any other words: what did one say to a woman who was going to debrief her husband on behalf of Albus Dumbledore?
Brynna smiled again, almost sadly. 'Aren't you going to tell me to be careful, and not to Splinch him?'
'Yes, yes, of course I am,' said Minerva. 'Be careful. Don't Splinch him. I expect you safely back at work on Monday.'
The younger woman nodded, and then took a sudden swift step forward and hugged Minerva quickly. 'Thank you,' she said; 'for listening. And thank you for taking care of Remus's problem – whatever it might be.'
Then she glided to the door, swooping to collect her bag before she slipped into the corridor.
Professor Minerva McGonagall stood motionless for a moment, lost in thought. Then she glanced at the clock on the mantelpiece. It was six minutes to ten o'clock. Poppy would be sitting down with her warm milk and nutmeg before retiring for the night. In all probability the matron's young patient would be fast asleep, but at least Minerva could inquire after his welfare. She was out in the corridor with her office door closed behind her before she realized that she was still wearing her slippers, and her hair was loose down her back. She shrugged her shoulders. She did not like to be seen in the corridors in such an informal state, but happily she had an option besides going back to her room to tidy up.
Moments later a sleek tabby cat was trotting along towards the hospital wing.