Chapter 1 : Give Us A Kiss, Minerva!
| ||Rating: 12+||Chapter Reviews: 61|
Background: Font color:
As it so happened, battle was already taking place.
For the previous night and on into this new day, horrors flowed and oozed through the halls like sepsis through a feverish body. The fear was palpable, the hearts of its most staunch defenders constricted, and gasps were brought to the lips at the slightest noise. We’ve made it this far, and if we can last through to the morning, the huddled said to themselves, we just might get out of here alive.
In the annals of school history, this day would come to be known by many names: The Great Chaos, The Vexamen of ’78, Disaster at Hogwarts. Generations of students would speak of this time for years to come.
It was the last day of school for four seventh year students:
And James Potter.
Also secretly known as the Marauders.
* * *
In the grey of the pre-dawn light, Professor Minerva McGonagall quietly opened a door and slipped into the antechamber beyond the silent, empty Great Hall. The soft murmur of voices within silenced as she entered, and as she turned swiftly to ensure the door was firmly closed and bolted, the assembled professors and staff of Hogwarts turned expectantly in her direction. McGonagall whirled around and fell back against the door, taking several gulping breaths. Her usually austere appearance was awry, her robes rumbled and a halo of grey hair that had escaped her normally tidy bun flew about her head. She brought a hand to her throat and croaked. “Coffee . . . black . . . now.”
She snatched at the cup hastily thrust into her hands, and gulped the scalding liquid. Once composure was re-established, she raised bloodshot, weary eyes to those assembled. She looked around to her fellow colleagues, noting their expressions of nervousness, heightened alarm and yes, even a hint of terror.
“Is everyone here? Anyone missing yet?” She looked quickly about the room, searching each face almost fearfully.
Madam Pomfrey spoke up immediately. “Horace . . . the bloody coward . . . I saw him sneaking out late last evening. Said ‘e was needed for an emergency in Hogsmeade. Ridiculous! What emergency requires the accompaniment of four of his trunks, that’s what I want to know!”
McGonagall sighed. “So Professor Slughorn is gone. Anyone else?”
“There’s Filch, but he’s not exactly gone,” volunteered Professor Kettleburn, scratching absently at the stub of his missing left ear. “He’s . . . er, indisposed.”
“Indisposed?” McGonagall said sharply, her gaze intense. “This is no time for him to play the invalid! WE have a crisis on our hands. No, no . . . Barnabas, you march straight to whatever sickbed Argus is holed up in and tell him to report here immediately!” She teetered briefly as the tirade seemed to sap her remaining energy, and crossed the room to the marble fireplace, gripping the mantle as if to keep herself vertical.
Kettleburn looked as if he was unsure how to proceed. “Well, that may be difficult . . .”
“All right, all right. Don’t get yer knickers in a twist,” grumbled Kettleburn, heaving his tall frame to his feet and stomping from the room.
McGonagall turned back. “Does anyone know where THEY are now?”
“If we knew that, don’t you think we could put a stop to all this?” snapped Professor Flitwick, perched on a small tea table. His tiny shoulders were hunched, arms crossed, and he thrust out his chin belligerently. “I don’t know how they do it -- they seem to know where we are all the time! YOU’RE their Head of House, you know; it’s your job to keep track of them!”
“Dar iss noo need too bite ‘er head off, Filius!” retorted a squat, rotund gypsy woman with kohl-lined eyes and bright red lips. The Divination professor, Madam Mysteria waved chubby, ring-laden fingers at him. “joost because joour desk is now entirely made of figgy pudding iss no reason to . . .”
“Oh, sod off, Misty!” shot back Flitwick. “You haven’t got several centimetres of custard sauce on your classroom floor, now have you?”
“MISTY?! I have told joo, and told joo . . . iss Mysteria . . . MYSTERIA!!” she screeched. “And joo sink joo are the only one who has trawbles? My crystal balls! For two days, my crystal balls have only shown some grozan Muggle cooking show! I am unable to commune with the Great Beyond under these conditions . . .” She paused a moment in thought, “. . . though I did jot down a paar-ticularily lawvaly recipe for crème brûlée.”
“Best watch the brûlée, dear,” retorted Flitwick, his voice sickly sweet. “Your trap door is only so big, you know.”
Mysteria drew herself up for retaliation, but McGonagall broke in. “Please, professors! Let us try to maintain some sense of decorum, however artificial! We are under a great deal of stress, but we must remain calm. Our duty is first and foremost the protection of the students . . .”
“Bah! ‘Duty to students’ my arse!” exploded the Muggle Studies teacher, Professor Hadrian. He was a skinny, nervous-looking man with an enormous adam’s apple at his throat that bobbed violently as he spoke. “The students don’t need protecting; they’re having a jolly good time watching us scramble about; think it’s all a lark! It’s the students who are following those four around like town rats after the Piper, just waiting to see what pops up next. Whose going to protect US, that’s what I want to know! And where the devil’s Dumbledore?”
As agreeing murmurs rippled across the room, McGonagall closed her eyes briefly, a calming technique that failed miserably. She understood everyone’s tension; they had all been patrolling the corridors all night, in a vain attempt to stave off the mad rush of tom-foolery that seemed to emanate from every appearance of those . . . those boys. “The Headmaster is attending his duties in his office, as is usual. He feels any attention given to these . . .”she searched for a word, “ . . . these pranks merely gives them more credence than they deserve. Besides, his remark specifically to me was . . .” Here she hesitated, unable to bring herself to utter the words.
“What?!” hissed Madame Pince.
“Umm . . . ‘boys will be boys’” the Deputy Headmistress finished lamely.
“Boys will be boys?!” exploded Flitwick, leaping off the table.
The door that Kettleburn had exited earlier was flung open and he re-entered, followed by an extremely reluctant, furious Filch. The caretaker placed himself before them, standing stiff at attention, hands tucked behind his back, as if preparing himself for a dressing down. His eyes were squinted and set, gazing stonily at a space towards the back wall.
“Well, Argus, what have you to say for yourself?” demanded McGonagall, moving to stand before him. “What’s this about you taking ill -- do you have need of Poppy’s services?”
Filch shook his head sharply, not looking at her, his lips pressed tightly together.
“Well, what is it? What is wrong?”
Filch looked at her with loathing, took a deep breath, and opened his mouth. The most wretched, ear-crumpling notes sang forth. The caretaker, his face flushing crimson with embarrassment and ire, belted out gustily, “And did those feet in ancient time . . . Walk upon England’s mountains green. . .”
“What . . .?!”
“. . . And was the holy Lamb of God . . . On England’s pleasant pastures seen. . .”
“I tried to warn you!” shouted Kettleburn, trying valiantly to make himself heard over the caterwauling. “That’s all that comes out of his mouth, no matter what he tries to say! Started sometime last night!”
“. . . And did the Countenance Divine . . . Shine forth upon our . . .”
McGonagall looked shocked and shouted out above the song, “Is it a spell or a potion?”
“. . . clouded hills? And was Jerusalem builded here . . .”
“If we knew that, we could bloody well fix ‘im, couldn’t we?” bellowed back Kettleburn, slumping back to his seat. “And he’ll go on that way, you know -- ‘e can’t stop till the whole blasted song is done!”
The staff sat immobilised, listening to the recital with pained expressions and no small amount of muffled snickering. Really, it was quite funny.
“ . . . Till we have built Jerusalem . . .In England’s green & pleasant Land!” With the final “Land!” still ringing across the air, Filch’s body, still in the throes of the spell, stiffened and his heels snapped smartly together. Then he was himself again, and glared daggers at McGonagall.
“Nice touch, that. The heels thing, I mean,” mumbled Kettleburn conversationally.
McGonagall took a breath. She reminded herself to rise to the occasion. “Yes, well, this . . . this affliction shall have to be worked around until an antidote or counter-spell is discovered. I’m sorry, Argus, but we don’t have the luxury of time right now. The students shall awaken at any moment.” She turned back to the room. “Does everyone know their positions? Do you have your patrolling buddy?” Grumbles and nods greeted her, and she turned once again to Filch. “Horace, it seems, has absconded from the school prematurely, but I think between you and Mrs. Norris you should be able to handle the . . .”
Here she was interrupted, for Filch shook his head violently and looked about the room in frantic haste. Snatching up a quill and parchment from a desk, he scribbled a few words, then slapped the paper into McGonagall’s hand. Confused, she read aloud, “ ‘No. No. No. Cat locked in my rooms. Hidden. Safe. Won’t risk her.’” She treated the caretaker with a withering expression. “Heavens, Argus! I think that cat can take care of herself; we’re short-handed as it is!”
Filch stomped his foot, crossed his arms in a huff and turned his back on her, sniffing loudly.
“Oh, very well, but that means you patrol alone -- ALONE, Argus!” she warned. She paused as a bell sounded, the first bell of the morning that brought the students from their beds. All in the room arose at once, and moved to the door, their eyes steely and jaws set. Enmasse, they moved through and down the long aisle of the Great Hall, but as the doors to the Entrance Hall were pulled open, an assault of the senses met their ears, eyes . . . and noses.
Lots of goats.
Lots and lots of goats.
They filled the Entrance Hall, a great flood of shaggy tans and browns and whites. A sea of horns and ears undulated back and forth across the Hall floor, one large mass of Capra hircus. Several adventurous pygmy kids leapt onto the balustrade, their cloven hoofs nervously tapping to maintain balance. The roar of bleating and braying crowded the air, and the mob of animals began spilling onto and up the grand staircase. The noise was incredible.
As was the smell.
For a horrified moment, all they could do was stare. Then McGonagall, after conjuring a lacy handkerchief and holding it to her nose, began shouting orders. “There are too many for a vanishing spell! They must be herded out of doors! We can deal with them in smaller groups.”
The pressure was too much for the caretaker as Filch observed his normally spotless and orderly Hall turned into a barnyard. With a bellow of rage, his arms flailing about his head, he waded into the throng of animals, his voice rising above (and thus adding to) the cacophony.
“AND DID THOSE FEET . . . IN ANCIENT TIME . . .”
The massive oaken doors to the Entrance Hall choose that moment to stagger open, first hesitantly due to the press of goats, and an enormous man stepped into view.
“Thank goodness . . . Hagrid! HAGRID!” shouted McGonagall, waving the handkerchief in the gamekeeper’s direction. But she paused in confusion as he turned to her. Hagrid saw her consternation, then looked down at himself in chagrin. It appeared that not even he was immune to the marauding of the previous evening. Exactly one-half of his hair, beard and eyebrows were gone. Shaved off. Missing. Kaput. He looked like a barber’s nightmare.
With one quick shake of her head, McGonagall admirably pushed on. “Hagrid, to the side . . . to the side, man! Out . . . we need to get them OUT!” She frantically waved him off to the side. He caught on quickly, and stepped into an alcove flanking the doorway, and like the breaching of a levy, the goats began spilling through the front entrance into the courtyard beyond.
Kettleburn, his wand already out, released jets of fiery sparks at the back end of the herd, urging the animals on, and thus increasing the speed of the exodus. Filch, his gravely voice still raised in song, continued his shooing gestures, his skinny arms pinwheeling about impressively. But as the Hall began to empty out, and the ensuing din began to lesson, a new sound wafted out from the back and within the herd.
“. . . yeowwwwl . . .meorowwwl . . .”
As the goats thinned out, the speed with which they exited began to increase, until the distinctive roman noses and curled horns were fairly flying by. McGonagall was about to sigh in relief, another problem solved, when she beheld another sight, one so profoundly out of place that she blinked once, then twice, before reckoning what was before her.
A large white buck brought up the rear, trotting along to keep up with his brethren exiting the Hall, his floppy ears bouncing merrily against his head. He appeared completely oblivious to the fact that a he was harnessed to a small cart, and it was bumping along gaily behind him. In the cart was a crude, wooden cage, and in the cage . . .
“Oh no!” breathed Madame Pomfrey at McGonagall’s elbow.
“Oh yes,” said Flitwick conversationally, his voice tinged with mirth. “Mrs. Norris!”
Filch spun about on hearing the screams of his cat, his normally squinty eyes widening in horror. He was, unfortunately, badly placed to intercept the wayward cart, and he thrashed about amidst the remaining goats. His voice rose in unison with his struggles.
“. . . BRING ME MY BOW OF BURNING GOLD; BRING ME MY ARROWS OF DESIRE . . .”
The last remaining goats spilled out to the courtyard, followed closely by the buck with the cart, followed even closer by Filch. He made a swipe for the back bars of the cage, missed, and fell to the floor directly even with the doorjamb. Scrambling to his feet, he flew after the yowling cat, his voice fading as he moved further out through the courtyard.
“. . . BRING ME MY SPEAR; O CLOUDS UNFOLD! . . .bring me my chariot . . .of . . . fire . . .”
For a moment, the Entrance Hall was relatively quiet, but as the staff moved to the centre of the expanse to peer after the departing animals, the tinkling sound of children’s laughter wafted down from above. McGonagall swung about and peered up the staircase, observing with more than mild irritation that the landings were filling rapidly with students, most still in their night clothes, hanging over the balustrades in their eagerness to see the show.
So much for the tattered shreds of dignity for this institution, she thought with defeat, and took a deep breath to issue a command to the prefects to restore order. However, her eye espied a familiar dark head of tousled hair, slightly taller than it’s surrounding fellows and a face shaped with dark glasses, peering down at them.
“POTTER!” she screeched, pointing her wand at the seventh year student, who suddenly stiffened in attention. For a fleeting second, he looked to those at his side. McGonagall followed his look and thundered, “LUPIN! BLACK! I see you . . . PETTIGREW! Come down this INSTANT!” In a blink of an eye, like so many gophers in the presence of a fox, the boy’s heads popped out of sight, and there was much shuffling on the crowded landing as the other students were pushed and jostled from below and behind.
As she flew to the stairs, McGonagall was brought up short by a restraining arm. “Give it a rest, Minerva,” chided Kettleburn. He gestured expansively above him. “You know by the time you get there, that group will be as gone as ole Binn’s sense of humour.”
The Deputy Headmistress quiet suddenly felt every hour of missed sleep, and as she turned to examine the devastation left by the goats -- the chewed tapestries, the toppled suits of armour -- she sank to the first step of the staircase with a bump. The faculty present moved in protectively around her, sympathy clear on their faces.
“Dar, dar, Meenerva,” clucked Mysteria. “Eet will be all over soon.”
“It will be, you know,” supplied Flitwick helpfully, standing beside her, brushing absently at custard stains on his trousers. He was unused to seeing the formidable Transfiguration Professor looking so defeated. He glanced down at her, but his eyes were drawn to the marble step she was seated on. “Er . . . it also appears to . . . be all over the step you’re sitting on.”
“What is?” she said dully.
He pointed. “Aw, crap,” she mumbled.
* * *
The mid-morning sun shone clear and bright on the entrance to Hogwarts. Headmaster Dumbledore and Deputy Headmistress McGonagall stood at the head of the courtyard, as was tradition, facing outward to the road, seeing off another years worth of students on their way to summer holiday. They waved serenely as the line of black carriages began to move on their journey to Hogsmeade Station. The carriages were packed with laughing, cheerful students, who ignored the professors completely
The rest of the faculty had been spread around behind them, but began sneaking off before the last students had heaved their trunks aboard the transport. Their heads spinning from fatigue and the anxiety of the previous evening and earlier morning, they desired nothing so much as their own quiet beds.
As he waved absently, Dumbledore said quietly out of the side of his mouth, “Any sign?”
McGonagall, a small smile plastered so tightly on her face she felt her cheekbones creaking, also waved, but replied, “Not a one. Their baggage is untouched.” Her eyes flickered to the side of the road, where four trunks were stacked in a neat pile. “And one of the carriages is missing,” she added as an afterthought. Her blasé tone was clear; I finally got you out of your office, she mutely implied, now this is YOUR problem.
Dumbledore dropped his hand and turned to her, his face calm. “Tosh, tosh . . . I’m sure it will turn up. These little annoyances have a way of turning themselves to rights when you least expect it.” However, he did avoid her hawk-like look, gazing off into the distance once more.
Her mouth twitching at the corners, McGonagall had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from commenting on the ‘little annoyance’ that had occurred at breakfast.
The students had all assembled in the Great Hall, seated neatly to the long rows of tables heavily laden with dishes of scrambled eggs and sausages, hot cutlets, pink hams, fried soles, little crisp rolls of bacon, hot toast, fresh rolls, sweet butter, jams and jellies, and pyramids of fruit. The staff were in their usual seats, a bit worn from the night’s activities, but their robes were clean and pressed, their hair tidy, and if their eyes were a bit blood-shot, well that was easily remedied with surreptitious doses of Pepper Up Potion.
The Headmaster has just spoken his final words, his arms lowering before the assembly, uttering his usual “Tuck in, everyone!”
I’ll tuck YOU in, you great git, thought McGonagall savagely, teach you to abandon your staff in their hour of need – bet you got a ruddy wonderful night’s sleep, didn’t you, you . . . you . . .
There was an ear-splitting crack of wood and a blur occurred out of the corner of McGonagall’s eye. Twisting her head with a jerk, her eyes trailed downward in disbelief.
The Headmaster’s chair, that bastion of authority, the symbol of the great office of Headmaster at Hogwarts that had survived generations of war, triumph, and tragedy, lay in a heap upon the floor. The ornate wooden carvings were in so many splinters that it looked a perfect pile of toothpicks, and the silk pad was shredded, a puff of cushion batting soaring heavenward. Professor Dumbledore had spilled onto the pile as the chair collapsed beneath him, and lay flat on his back, his skinny arms and legs flailing about like a turtle flipped onto it’s shell.
A thunderous moment of complete silence followed.
“Well, Albus,” McGonagall said, turning back to her toast and marmalade. “Boys will be boys.”
McGonagall’s musings in the courtyard were interrupted, for it was as that precise moment that the miscreants chose to walk about the side of the castle wall, looking like they had just had a pleasant morning’s walk about the grounds.
James Potter, always in the lead, reached them first. His robes were tidy, his face clean and glowing, and his perpetually tousled hair neatly combed. He grinned at the professors, bounced a bit on his heels and said gaily, “Why . . . Professors! How good to see you this morning! Absolutely cracking day, isn’t it?” The other boys crowded around him, Sirius throwing a lazy arm about his friends shoulder, giving Dumbledore and McGonagall a cheeky grin. Even Remus, usually a stoic, calm young man, puffed his chest out a bit, as if to say, bring it on – nothing can ruin this day. Peter ducked his head shyly, but could be heard snickering in short hissy little spurts.
McGonagall was held speechless at their cheek, but Headmaster Dumbledore drew himself up to his full height, glowering at each in turn, his bushy white eyebrows effectively causing his eyes to disappear.
“Gentlemen,” he murmured, his tone dangerous, “exactly what do you have to say for yourselves?”
The foursome, not one wit cowed or shamed, looked dramatically at each other, eyes rolling. Sirius dropped his arm from James, turned about to glance at the road, then back to the professors, slapping both of his cheeks in mock alarm. “What I have to say is . . . we appear to be missing a carriage! Wouldn’t you say, Mr. Lupin?”
Remus likewise spun on his heels to the road then back. “Why Mr. Black, I do believe you are correct; we ARE missing a carriage!”
“Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear . . . where ever can it BE?” wondered James aloud, pointing an index finger under his chin and appearing to think mightily.
“Yes, *snerk* where can it *snerk* be?” echoed Peter.
A house elf chose that moment to pop into view with a crack, yanking desperately on Dumbledore’s robes. A whispered conversation ensued between them, and as the tiny creature disappeared, Dumbledore straightened, his face unreadable.
“It appears the missing carriage has been located. I am informed it now sits precariously perched atop my desk.”
“Oh my! How ever did it get there?” exclaimed Sirius. “Mr. Potter, can you fathom how such a thing could have happened?”
“Why no, Mr. Black, I just can’t imagine it! And you, Mr. Lupin?”
“No, no, Mr. Potter, tis a mystery that will, sadly, remain unsolved. Don’t you agree, Mr. Pettigrew?”
“*snerk* yes, yes, *snerk* unsolved.”
Dumbledore stood, his body still, his eyes moving between the four as an owl watches a scurrying mouse. He finally smiled and replied, “Since it appears we are short one carriage, I am afraid an unhappy alternative stands before us. I am sorry, gentlemen, but it appears you will have to walk to Hogsmeade Station.”
But the boys were nonplussed. “Luuuvely day for a walk, don’t you think chaps?” said James expansively. “Yes” “Beautiful day” “Walking’s good for the soul” were the replies.
But James turned back to McGonagall. “But we just cannot leave without thanking you, Professor McGonagall; you, our most beloved Head of House!” He stepped up to her, but she hastily retreated back a step in alarm.
“Oh no!” she stuttered. “No, no really, no need to thank . . .”
But James was quicker. He leapt to her side, and threw a long arm about her shoulder, and brought a magnificent bouquet of yellow roses – her favourite – from behind his back. She took them with some caution.
“Thanks, mum, for putting up with us,” James said, a broad smile on his face.
Sirius likewise jumped forward and put another arm about her. She was effectively pinned between them. “Come on, Minerva!” Sirius said, “Give us a kiss!”
He and James simultaneously leaned in for a noisy kiss on each of her cheeks. Squeeeeee . . . . smack!! Then they stepped away and down to their awaiting trunks, followed by Remus and Peter, who still snickered happily.
As the boys headed down the road pulling their trunks behind them, McGonagall raised a shaky hand to her cheek, clutching the roses in her other arm, her cheeks lightly tinged in a blush. Dumbledore turned likewise, a smile flickering across his face at her embarrassment.
“Well, Minerva, another school year is behind us. How about a lovely spot of tea?”
“My dear Albus,” McGonagall replied, turning with him to the castle. “If that lovely spot of tea does not contain a generous portion of fire whiskey, my resignation will be on your desk before the noon meal.”
Dumbledore threw his head back in delighted laughter, and the large doors of the Entrance Hall closed behind them.
The song so charmingly rendered by Filch in this story is commonly called “Jerusalem”. Lyrics are by William Blake from the preface to his work Milton: A Poem (1804). However, it is commonly known today as a hymn with music by C. Hubert H. Parry (1916). Often considered one of England’s most popular patriotic songs, it is sometimes used as an alternative to the national anthem. (information by way of Wikipedia)
Other Similar Stories
A Little Hel...