Chapter 54 : Minerva McGonagall
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An enormous mansion sat in the middle of a rather large plot of land, imposing against the black sky. The pale stone that covered the façade glowed eerily, providing almost as much light as the sliver of moon that had risen above the extensive grounds. It was strangely quiet, as though all creatures had fled from the seemingly deserted mansion. To the untrained eye, the darkened windows suggested that there wasn’t a living being for miles; but if one was to look carefully, they would see something under the bushes, just inside the tall, ornate gate, sparkling in the moonlight.
There, under the shrubbery, a regal tabby cat sat, alert and watching. It was strange that an ordinary house cat would be sitting under the bushes outside of such an imposing home. Of course, if you knew what you were looking for, you would realize that the markings around the cat’s eyes were not those of a typical house cat. Those eyes, so bright and alert, belonged to Minerva McGonagall.
The mansion was Malfoy Manor, the apparent gathering place for Voldemort’s supporters, the Death Eaters. The Order of the Phoenix had been deriving a plan to invade the Manor for months, but they needed just the right moment; they needed an inconspicuous spy, and Minerva, in her Animagus form, was perfect for the assignment. She had been sitting, alert and inconspicuous, for nearly an entire day. And as she sat, she had been remembering.
She stepped through the huge doors into the Great Hall and looked up at the starry ceiling in awe. She had heard stories about Hogwarts for as long as she could remember, and she had devoured Hogwarts, A History as soon as she had gotten her acceptance letter, signed by the well-known Deputy Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore.
She followed the short boy in front of her to the head of the huge room, where there sat a stool with a tattered hat upon it. “The sorting hat,” she murmured to herself, earning a strange look from the short boy.
She waited, patient and silent, until she heard her name called by the bearded professor. “McGonagall, Minerva.”
She went forward and sat on the stool, waiting to hear the voice of the sorting hat speak into her ear. “I do believe that there is more to you than meets the eye, little girl,” the hat said, its voice low. “You will go on to do things, impressive things, things that no one ever expected.” It paused, as though thinking. “I do believe that you will go well in GRYFFINDOR.” The hat shouted the last word, and Minerva hopped off the stool happily after it did, then ran to the table where the Gryffindors were cheering for their newest student.
The cat’s eye glittered as though it was amused, then quickly scanned across the property. The windows were still dark, everything still shut up tightly, and yet she continued to watch as she perused her memories.
”Miss McGonagall!” Professor Dumbledore greeted. “It’s so good to see our new Head Girl.”
“Thank you, Professor. I’m honored to have been chosen.”
He smiled down at her. “You deserve it, Minerva, you’ve more than proven yourself. Now, I would like to give you your first assignment, to lead the meeting with the new prefects.”
She nodded. “Of course, Professor. I’ve actually spoken to all of them on the train already, except for the boy from Slytherin. He was absent from the prefect’s carriage.”
“Ah, yes, Mr. Riddle. He is absent occasionally, but I think he was a suitable choice for prefect.”
“Riddle? Tom Riddle?” she asked, her voice sharper than she had intended.
“Yes, McGonagall, me, Tom Riddle.”
She jumped at the voice behind her. “How lovely,” she said stiffly, hiding her surprise.
“Mr. Riddle,” Dumbledore greeted. “Miss McGonagall will escort you to the room where you will be having your first prefect meeting of the year.”
Tom smiled. “Lovely, thank you, Professor.” He turned to Minerva. “Ready, McGonagall?”
She forced her lips to curve up in a smile. “Of course, Riddle. Goodbye, Professor.” They walked away side-by-side, but as soon as they turned the corner she quickened her steps, drawing ahead of her escort. “Riddle, we need to get one thing straight right now.”
He scoffed. “Excuse me?”
She quickened her steps still more. “Do not pull any of your ‘better than me’ stunts this year, Riddle, I won’t tolerate them. It’s an abuse of power now, which is worse than just being pompous and assuming.”
Riddle chuckled. “Oh, McGonagall, you try so hard to control me. You’ll never succeed.”
She pursed her lips and ignored his final comment as she entered the room where the other prefects were waiting for her to begin the meeting.
The cat seemed to stiffen as she examined the landscape. A light breeze blew, brushing leaves from the shrub she was under against her ear, but she didn’t even twitch. She was too focused on the tasks at hand: her lookout and her memories.
Minerva stepped into the Three Broomsticks, snow swirling behind her in the cold November wind.
“Hello, Minerva,” Professor Dumbledore greeted, standing from his table.
“Hello, Professor. I’m glad to meet with you tonight.”
He inclined his head. “Now, Minerva, I would rather not take up time with flowery language, so I’ll just tell you why I’ve asked you here: You had expressed an interest in teaching at Hogwarts, Transfiguration in particular. Unfortunately, Transfiguration is my post, but I do have a position for you teaching Arithmancy.”
Minerva looked down at the table. “Professor, I’m not sure that I can spend the rest of my career teaching Arithmancy and be happy,” she told him, her voice uncharacteristically quiet.
“I understand, Minerva. I cannot make you any guarantees about when, but I can assure you that the Transfiguration post is yours as soon as Professor Dippet retires and I become Headmaster. At that time, I would also be honored to allow you to become the head of Gryffindor House.”
“Minerva, I believe that you will be happy at Hogwarts. You were happy there as a student, and I genuinely believe that you will be one of the most successful teachers we’ve had in some time.”
Minerva thought quickly, her mind racing. What would she do if she wasn’t teaching? “I accept your offer, Professor. When would you like me to start?”
The cat was completely emotionless, quite unlike most cats. She was also completely still, nearly unheard of for most cats. And still, the woman inside the body of a cat traveled through her memories.
She was sitting at her desk, grading essays on animal-human transfiguration, when something at her window caught her eye. She was shocked to realize that it was a student. And it wasn’t just any student: It was Harry Potter, a first year.
Her first inclination was to be angry. First years should not be flying this high, and someone was going to hear about it. Her second inclination was shock: He had just caught a falling object, an object that very few people would have seen, let alone caught. And that was when it hit her. “A seeker,” she whispered to herself.
She stood next to the window, considering. On one hand, he was a first year who had most certainly broken some rule by being that close to her office window. On the other hand, the Gryffindor Quidditch team was desperately in need of a good Seeker. The Seekers for the past few years had been inferior, and, quite frankly, she was tired of losing. Worse than the losing was listening to Severus gloating afterwards. She remembered him as a student and it nauseated her to have to listen to his comments without retorting.
The thought of listening to Severus gloat about his own Slytherin Quidditch team was what made up her mind: Harry Potter would be the new Gryffindor Seeker.
The cat’s eyes moved sharply to a tree at the rustle of the dead leaves in the braches. Minerva’s spine stiffened, then relaxed as she saw the shape of an owl crossing the eerily lit sky. However, nearly as soon as she relaxed, she stiffened again as her mind took her to another memory, a painful memory.
At the end of the day, Minerva walked slowly to her office—her new office. She couldn’t believe that after so many years, her mentor was gone: Albus Dumbledore was dead.
She closed the door behind her and allowed herself to slump for the first time in days, then shuffled her feet across the room. She collapsed behind the desk, so familiar but so different from this side.
Dumbledore had been a man she had idolized for so many years. She had heard of him before coming to Hogwarts as a child, and was in awe of him when she arrived. Through her years at school, she learned so much from him. He began her love for Transfiguration, and he could be credited with her exceptional skill in it now; the basic foundation that he had lain gave her the tools she needed to take it to the next level. When he gave her the Arithmancy job years later, she was reluctant to teach the subject, but eager to begin working with such a great man as an equal, so she accepted the position.
So many years she had worked beside him…and now he was gone. Inexplicably, unexpectedly, undeniably gone. At this thought, Minerva buried her head in her hands and began to sob. It was senseless, and all done in the name of that disgusting excuse for a man. Tom Riddle. She scoffed at the thought of his moniker, Voldemort. Riddle was a coward and a sorry excuse of a man.
And at that moment, sitting at the desk of her deceased mentor, thinking of the man who had put her in this situation, she made a resolution: She would be a part of destroying Voldemort and the disgusting world that he was trying to build.
The cat’s eyes glistened, as though filled with unshed tears. At the creaking of the gate, however, she snapped to attention, eyes sharp, back stiff, fur standing on end. As soon as the gate clicked shut, hundreds of lights began to blaze in the windows of the once-glorious mansion. The property was illuminated, making it easy for Minerva to follow the progress of a man in black robes. She crept out from her hiding place beneath the bushes and followed his progress, slow and silent, across the property to the door. Confident that the proper people had been alerted to the change in the residence and that they would be arriving soon, she slipped through the open doorway behind the black-robed man.
They walked through many hallways and down a cold stone staircase, until they entered a chamber, dark and quiet. And there, in the middle of the dark room, stood a man. Or, rather, a shadow of a man: Tom Riddle. The man responsible for the death of the most influential man in her life.
At this sight, Minerva lost control of her emotions for the first time in many, many years. She transformed back into her human form, pulling out her wand as she did. She could hear the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs behind her as she finished transforming.
The man in the center of the room smiled grotesquely. “Hello, Minerva.”
Her blood boiled and she pointed her wand at his chest, aiming for the heart that she knew was already dead. “Hello, Tom.”
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