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Figurehead by ad astra
Chapter 5: Five
Neither Penny or I mentioned what she had said the next morning. I tried to keep things normal, but it meant our conversation seemed forced and eventually I gave up and just focused on my breakfast, vaguely wishing that we weren’t confined to our house tables for meals. I felt like talking to Oliver, but I didn’t know exactly what I would say. Or whether I would say anything at all.
I didn’t have Defence Against the Dark Arts on Tuesdays, which made me happier than it should have and made me think that maybe I should drop it instead of History of Magic. But I was more likely to get good marks in DADA than History, so I reluctantly sought out Snape before classes started and told him I chose History of Magic as my course drop this year.
“Not Defence Against the Dark Arts?” he queried as he scribbled over my timetable. “I heard from Professor Umbridge that you and she had already…clashed heads.”
“We have. But I’ll do better in Defence than History of Magic.”
“So long as you don’t mind a theory-based course,” he warned, his lip curling slightly. “The Ministry doesn’t seem to value good mastery of wandwork…Far be it from me to criticise the teaching methods of a subject that isn’t mine, of course.” His last words were laced with bitter resentment, and I decided it was my cue to leave. I was one of the few students who seemed to like Snape, and in return he gifted me a kind of grudging tolerance, but I knew better than to hang around him when certain topics came up.
I got to Transfiguration fifteen minutes early with the express purpose of catching Professor McGonagall for some career advice. Over summer I had become increasingly certain I wanted to take Transfiguration further, but I didn’t really know a lot about the magical research fields and what I had told the girls in my dorm last night was based mainly off guesswork.
Professor McGonagall was already in the classroom when I got there, flicking through a textbook at her desk.
“Good morning, Miss Greenslade,” she greeted me without lifting her eyes from her book. “How can I help?”
I perched on one of the desks in the front row. “I was wanting to ask you for some careers advice.”
She glanced up. “Heads of Houses meet with students in fifth and seventh years. You should be having an interview with Professor Snape in the next few months.”
“I know. But I’m wanting to make Transfiguration into a career and I figured you would be the best one to ask about that.”
“I see.” She pushed the textbook aside, taking a pile of parchment from her desk. “I’m glad to hear it, Miss Greenslade. I don’t know many students who have proven themselves so naturally adept at Transfiguration.” She fixed a stern eye on me. “And I don’t say such things lightly.”
“I know, Professor,” I assured her, feeling a glow of pride at her words. No teacher at Hogwarts was as sparing with praise as Professor McGonagall, not even Snape. There were exceptions to the rule – Snape never said a kind word to the students he decided he hated, but for the most part a compliment from McGonagall was the rarest of all.
“There are a number of career options available in Transfiguration,” she said briskly, sending me several sheets of parchment with a flick of her wand. “You can work in the Ministry’s research committee –” the pamphlet at the top of the pile fluttered a bit – “Or as a freelancer, Transfiguring items for various companies, they advertise in Transfiguration Today –” the magazine in the middle of the pile opened and flicked through its pages, sending the Ministry pamphlet drifting lazily to the ground – “Or you can work abroad for another Ministry.” Seven pamphlets similar to the Ministry’s one lay underneath the magazine and I flicked idly through them.
“What do you recommend?”
“Personally?” McGonagall glanced towards the door; satisfied we were alone, she nevertheless lowered her voice. “I would recommend getting out of the country if you can, Miss Greenslade.”
“You believe You Know Who’s back, then?”
“Yes, I do,” she replied curtly. “I would not advocate seeking employment in Britain as it is, but with the Ministry’s attempts to keep everyone safely in the dark about his return—” she cut herself off abruptly, continuing, “Of course it’s up to you, Miss Greenslade. Far be it from me to push you in one direction or the other.”
“What do you think will happen if I stay here?” I pressed.
“Then you will find yourself tangled in a war.”
“I will not speak any more on this matter, Miss Greenslade.”
I wanted to ask her more, but the door swung open and a group of my classmates trooped in for Transfiguration. Reluctantly I slid off the surface of the desk and took my usual place in the middle of the classroom.
“What are you doing next year?” I asked Oliver as I joined him for lunch in the courtyard.
“Inginnag’Gim’ny,” he said around a mouthful of sandwich, holding a hand over his face to shield himself from the sun as he reclined on the grass.
“Chew, swallow, try again.”
“I’m gonna go to Germany,” he repeated after hurriedly forcing his mouthful down.
“Germany?” I repeated. “For Runes or something?”
“Yeah.” He nodded vigorously. “I’m going to do a one-year course in magical archaeology in Berlin, then start an internship. D’you know what you’re doing?”
“Transfiguration research for the Ministry,” I said decisively. “I’m just not sure which Ministry it’ll be at this stage.”
“What do you mean, ‘which Ministry’?”
“I’m thinking I might go overseas.” In all honesty I had never considered living anywhere but Britain, but Professor McGonagall’s advice had weighed heavily on my mind all morning.
“Oh, cool. Where to?”
I shrugged. “Haven’t gotten that far ahead.”
“How come you want to go overseas?”
I hesitated. Oliver didn’t believe Voldemort was back, which meant Professor McGonagall’s warnings about a war would mean nothing to him.
Oliver raised one eyebrow. “You’re worried about war, aren’t you?”
“It was just some advice I was given,” I replied cagily.
“I always thought she had her head screwed on straight.”
“She does!” I said, irritated. “Just because she doesn’t agree with you doesn’t make her opinion less valid than yours.”
“Where’s the proof that You Know Who is back?” Oliver asked, sitting up. “Other than the words of a fifteen year old boy who, let’s face it, has had his entire life revolve around You Know Who?”
“Where’s the proof that he’s not back? I’m not saying that he is. But I just think it’s a bit stupid to decide either way when there’s no proof.”
“If you’re running away to another country because you’re scared of war, that seems pretty decisive to me.”
“Better safe than sorry.”
Oliver slumped back onto the grass, exhaling loudly. “This You Know Who stuff is just scaremongering. First years are having panic attacks, I’ve had to call Professor Flitwick in the middle of the night up to Ravenclaw Tower twice already. It doesn’t matter what you think personally, Amelia, if people think he’s back then sooner or later they’re going to start seeing monsters in the shadows and a school full of terrified teenagers is not a good place to be.”
“You were the one who said we need to remain neutral.”
“I know. And I am still neutral. I haven’t said anything that contradicts that.”
“Just make sure you—”
“I. Know.” Irritated, I picked up my bag and stood, slinging it over my shoulder.
“Where are you going?” Oliver asked, peering up at me.
“The library. Common room. Somewhere, I don’t care.”
“Suit yourself,” he called after me as I strode back into the castle.
My eyes took a moment to adjust to the gloom of the corridor having been in the bright afternoon sun, and I nearly bumped into a group of first years.
“’Scuse me,” I muttered, slipping through the middle of the group.
“Are you the Head Girl?” one of them asked me.
She glanced around at her friends. “Is Dumbledore getting fired by the Ministry?”
“What?” I asked, startled.
“It’s just…Melissa’s sister said that Angus who works in the Ministry said that Dumbledore’s been kicked out of the Wizengamot and Hogwarts is next.”
“The Ministry doesn’t have authority over Hogwarts,” I replied briefly. “Even if they wanted to fire Dumbledore – and I can’t imagine why because he’s a brilliant Headmaster – they couldn’t.”
The girls seemed dubious, but nevertheless nodded and walked away again, chattering in hushed whispers. I turned onto the staircase where Professor Umbridge was standing, hands clasped and a simpering smile on her face.
“I’d watch what you tell those girls, Amelia,” she murmured as I passed. “I’d hate to see you proven wrong.”