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Chapter 3 : Hot Chocolate
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“But I shudder to think – if Albus hadn’t been on the way downstairs for hot chocolate, who knows what might have…” Minerva McGonagall, CoS pg 135
“Albus, you look stressed.”
I mentally groan. I suppose after nearly fifty years of marriage I should have learnt that Minerva knows when I am feigning sleep.
“How did you know I was awake?” I ask, sitting up.
“Several things. Firstly, you’re normally still awake at this time, running back and forth from your office and generally worrying about things. Secondly, you never sleep on your back. And third, you snore.”
“I do not!”
“I know. I just wanted to see your reaction.”
“Hmph.” I watch her for a few minutes, and then I say, “What are you here for?”
Minerva sighs. “I thought you might want to see the letter from Paula, seeing as it’s addressed to both of us.” She hands me an envelope. Paula is Minerva’s niece – well actually, she’s her cousin’s daughter, but as Minerva has always been an only child it’s not unfair that Paula calls her her aunt. She calls me Uncle Albus too – a title I’ve always liked more than I let on, even more now I know I’ll never be called “Dad”.
But that’s a long story.
Minerva lets me read the letter in peace. When I get to the second paragraph, I realize why she acted so oddly when she received it this morning. Paula’s expecting a child, and is over the moon about it.
I suppose I should be happy for her.
The clock chimes as I finish the letter. I put it back in its envelope and make my way into my living-room, where I know Minerva is waiting. She’s been doing that a lot recently.
“Can we talk, Albus?” she asks softly as I enter. She’s hunched up on the sofa, staring into the fire embers.
I sit down beside her and put my arm around her. She leans on my shoulder and I see, in the light of the dying fire, that she’s been crying.
“Why is life so unfair?” she whispers.
I know what she means. After years trying to have children, we thought we’d finally have a family, after we’d given up hope. But Minerva miscarried over the summer. We’re no longer together now – she needs her space.
I feel more tears leaking onto my shoulder as she continues to cry gently. We may be separated, but she still turns to me for comfort. It sometimes makes it awkward. I suppose I’m the closest to knowing what she’s going through, but I find it difficult to help her.
“I’m sorry, Minnie,” I whisper.
“You d-don’t understand.”
She’s right, I don’t. “I know.”
The quiet that follows is less peaceful than it was the last time. Now I feel like I should be saying something, but I have lost the words.
Minerva shifts her head more to the side and sighs down my neck. “It’s all right for you. You’ve got Harry.”
I freeze, confused. “Harry’s not -” I don’t know how to finish.
“You feel like he is,” Min says quietly.
Silence falls again as I contemplate her words. I have never thought of it like that before, but I suppose she’s right. I do think of Harry like that. My blood boils just thinking about him suffering in any way. I want to curse anyone who has so much as given him a hostile glance. Unfortunately, with the Duelling Club incident, the list is mounting fiercely. Now it covers almost the whole school population.
Minerva sniffs, but doesn’t move to get a handkerchief.
The halls are still as we quietly make our way down to the kitchens. I insisted on taking Minerva down for a hot chocolate. At first she refused, saying that she didn’t want one and what would people think if they saw us together in the middle of the night, but I insisted. She hasn’t said a word the whole journey. I think she’s still miffed at me.
We avoid the more talkative portraits in the hope that we don’t get noticed. Minerva is right about one thing – if someone did see us together, people would talk. And for once, the reason we are together is perfectly innocent.
The first floor is the worst, but we see no-one – at least, until we reach the top of the stairs.
What looks like a toppled statue is laying half-way down the stairs. My breath catches as I hurry down to it.
“It’s the Creevey boy,” I say softly, looking into his face – which is mostly hidden behind his infamous camera.
“Petrified?” Minerva gasps.
“I think so.”
I know so, but I do not want to sound so final.
How is this happening???
Minerva stoops and picks up something next to him. “Albus, look.” It’s a bunch of grapes. At first I’m perplexed, but then I remember Colin is a huge fan of Harry’s.
It could have been the death of him.
I straighten up and look around, half-expecting to see Tom standing watching, frustrated at my interference. He’s not there, but that doesn’t stop me thanking my lucky stars that I managed to persuade Minerva to come downstairs.
I think she’s thinking along the same lines. Minnie has a tendency to get rather attached to her Gryffindors – not that I’m much better with Harry. Still, it makes times like this harder on her.
“We need to take him to Poppy. You take that end…”
The hot chocolate forgotten, we retrace our steps. The progress is slower that I think is wise. Hopefully, with my presence there is unlikely to be something else happen to Mr Creevey.
I catch sight of Harry lying still as we enter the Hospital Wing. Minerva runs to get Poppy after we heave Colin onto a free bed. I look back at Harry, and wonder what is going through his mind now.
I doubt it has anything to do with Tom. To my knowledge, Harry doesn’t know about the last time the Chamber was opened. Hopefully, this year he won’t try and do anything stupid. After that terrifying moment last June, I wished I had not encouraged him.
Min reappears with Poppy right behind her. I tell her Minerva found Colin on the stairs, and she tells her about the grapes.
Yes, he was definitely Petrified.
Better Petrified than dead.
An idea occurring to me, I prize the camera out of Colin’s grip. To my surprise, the inside is melted. I suppose I should not have been so shocked – Tom is hardly the one to leave traces of evidence around.
“What does this mean, Albus?” Minerva breathes.
I don’t want to answer. I know what is happening.
“But Albus – surely – who -”
“The question is not *who*,” I think aloud, “The question is *how*…”
Poppy says nothing on our contradicting explanations as to who found Colin, but bids us an uneasy goodnight. Minerva is more than ready to return to her rooms, and I don’t blame her. She stays silent, lost in thought, as we make our way back along the corridor, until we part. I know tomorrow she will be quizzing me on my cryptic messages, but for now she just says, “Good night, Albus.”
I stare after her. Is it just me, or do I detect a hint of animosity behind the parting? Her words from earlier echo in my head as I ascend my stairs – “You’ve got Harry.” “Lucky you.” “Why is life so unfair?”
Am I imagining things, or is Minerva ever so slightly jealous?
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