Chapter 33 : Wilhelmina Grubbly-Plank
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Title: Sweet Reminder
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
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Wilhelmina looked around her house again. The armchairs were clean with the matching fluffy pillows in the arm. The counters in the kitchen were gleaming. The perishable food had been disposed of, and the house looked desolate and depressed with the lights off and the curtains drawn. The house looked as a house only looks when its inhabitants are on a holiday. Wilhelmina went through one last mental checklist as she picked up her trunk. The pipes were turned off, and the cats were taken care of.
Arabella Figg, her close friend, had taken her cats. She had cats of her own, and although she had broken her leg tripping over one, she still loved feline friends. It was one of the only topics that she could discuss with Harry Potter, during the long sessions when she watched over him, one of the few connections to the wizarding world that she still had.
"Little Harry Potter came over today, and I felt so bad, telling him all about Snowball….I wish we could tell him he was a wizard. I mean, that would just simplify things!"
"I agree with you, Ara'! He could live at my house, all of my kids have flown the coop!"
As Wilhelmina rode in a taxicab to the train station, she thought about the letter that she had gotten that morning from Dumbledore.
As you probably know by now, our gamekeeper, Hagrid, is a half giant. And although I've tried to explain to him that it doesn't really matter, and that he should be proud of who he is, he is still not able to resume teaching after the Christmas holidays.
Would you be willing to be a temporary Care of Magical Creatures professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?
Let me know by owl as soon as possible. I will send the Hogwarts Express for you immediately. It will be waiting at Platform 9 ¾.
Now, as she boarded the single-car train, she thought about what her first lesson should be. She decided that it would be unicorns. Wilhelmina's first Care of Magical Creatures lesson in her third year was unicorns, and she had been in love with them ever since.
She had poured over countless books about unicorns. She knew everything that there was to know about them, and anything new that was found out was owled to her immediately. (She was signed up for The Unicorn News.)
Unicorns were something that came up at every level, even the N.E.W.T. level. Knowing about the unicorn's good and bad properties was something that was not only necessary, but likeable. As a temporary professor, Wilhelmina had learned that you needed to make the students like you on the first day. As a regular, everyday professor, they didn't have to like you, because you could make their life at school terrible. Unless, of course, you were the only teacher not whipping the students. Wilhelmina had been that teacher at Durmstrang, and they had liked her no matter what she taught.
Wilhelmina fell asleep after about an hour of riding in the empty train compartment, with no one to talk to. Some time later, she woke up, with the driver of the train tapping her gently.
"Ma'am?" He saw that she was awake. "Ma'am, we're at Hogsmeade Station. The Headmaster is waiting for you."
Indeed he was. She peered out of the window to see Albus Dumbledore sitting patiently on a bench. She picked up her trunk, thanked the driver and walked out onto the platform.
"Hello, Wilhelmina! How have you been?" Concern was etched on his face, along with evident relief and happiness to see her. He led her to a carriage as she spoke.
"I've been doing fine, Albus. Things aren't quite the same as they were since he died, but the kids stop in now and then, and I've got the cats."
"And how are your children?"
"Fine. All fine." When the castle came into view, she sighed. "I haven't seen this place in ages. Since my oldest left, actually."
"Well, I'm sure you'll find it just the same," said Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling, as they walked in the front doors, trunk and books floating along behind them. Dumbledore led her to an empty office.
"This," he said, pointing to a door, "was Professor Kettleburn's old office. He used to have a few "indoor creature" lessons in these classrooms, but most are still held outside. You will have fourth years tomorrow, and you can meet them outside of Hagrid's cabin. I'm afraid some of the fourth years will ask, three, in particular--and they may become persistent-- where Hagrid is. Simply let them know that he is indisposed. We won't need this to become bigger than it is."
"Perfectly understandable" said Wilhelmina, pushing the study door open to find a comfortable bed. She set her bags down and turned around to Dumbledore. "Mind if I smoke in here?"
Dumbledore was taken aback. "I didn't realise that you smoked."
"I just started. After he died, and left me his pipe. The smell reminds me of him."
"I see. Go ahead. Unless something happens to Hagrid, which is unlikely, to say the least, he will be our Care of Magical Creatures Professor for a very long time, so this office will go unused, except by you, should you choose to stay."
"I'm fine, Dumbledore. Always willing to teach temporarily, but as I said when Kettleburn retired, I don't want to work full time."
"Understandable. I'm afraid we've already had dinner, but I can send the house-elves up with something."
"I ate on the train," Wilhelmina lied. "But if you see Minerva, will you tell her I would love to see her?"
"Thanks Albus, for everything."
"It was nothing. Good night. I may see you at breakfast tomorrow, I may not."
Several minutes later, Wilhelmina was lighting her pipe, and a knock came at the door. "Just a minute." She opened the door and immediately set down her pipe, throwing herself upon the woman standing there. "Minerva! I haven't seen you in ages!" Wilhelmina stood back and conjured armchairs in front of the fire.
Sitting in one, Minerva McGonagall looked upon her friend. "How are you doing?"
"I'm doing alright. It's quiet around the house, but the kids drop in when they can. I'm doing better since I was at the funeral."
Minerva nodded. "I understand, dear. Well, at any rate, I'm glad to see you here! I can't imagine a more suitable temporary!" It was true. Wilhelmina knew more about magical creatures than everyone else she knew.
"Thank you, Minerva. I learned from the best!" At Wilhelmina's last comment, Minerva blushed.
"Just because I was always having to teach you things does not mean that I was your teacher! I'm two months younger than you are!" Why does such a small age have to matter? Wilhelmina wondered to herself while she spoke.
"Well, you always were in the better situation…after teaching at Durmstrang, I'd rather be here." Wilhelmina shook her head.
"We all understand why you quit teaching there. Dumbledore said you mentioned that you wouldn't want a full time job teaching here?" Minerva was sure that her closest friend might need something to take her mind off of her lonely life.
"No, my husband left me enough to live on, and although I enjoy teaching, I could never teach all year. I want to travel with one of my sons. He just got promoted to "Travel Tips" in the Daily Prophet, and I'd like to travel with him soon." Wilhelmina smiled. All of her children were so successful!
"I see. Well, I'd better get to bed. You and I need to get some sleep! You're sure you're all right?" Minerva was concerned for her friend. Losing someone that close was hard, for anybody.
"Yes, dear. Thank you for your concern, but I'll be fine. I'm already back on my feet. I miss him, but that is no reason to stop living. I already have a few weeks worth of lessons planned, and I'm ready to roll." Wilhelmina was lighting the pipe again.
"Well, I'm here if you need me." Minerva still looked concerned.
"Thank you, Minerva. I shall keep that in mind."
After Minerva left, Wilhelmina sat in the one remaining armchair in front of the fire, warming her toes, smoking her pipe, and thinking about her old life.
After she had finished at Hogwarts, Wilhelmina wanted to teach others about magical creatures. The only job opening was at Durmstrang, a school well known for teaching the dark arts. Wilhelmina had not been allowed to teach about the creatures she loved—hippogriffs, unicorns, and nifflers- but had been forced to lecture about dark and dangerous creatures; giant snakes, huge and magical deadly scorpions.
Wilhelmina had started going to the pub, to hide from everything. She was not happy teaching at Durmstrang, but she didn't have a choice. One day, however, a man that she didn't recognize had sat down next to her in the bar, and started smoking a pipe. Soon, they had introduced themselves.
Wilhelmina had found out that he was a single father, living in Bulgaria for the only job he could find. He had come to Durmstrang to fetch his only son. He had gotten a job promotion that would not only move him back to his native home in Scotland, but it would take his son out of 'that terrible school' Durmstrang and place him in Hogwarts.
All night Wilhelmina and the man talked. She told him about how unhappy she was. When the pub closed, the two continued taking, walking together through the snow towards the inn where the man was staying. Once inside, they had sat in front of the fire in the inn lobby, and talked all night. When it was time for Wilhelmina to start class, and time for the man to fetch his son, the man stood up and looked down at her.
"Come with us," he had said, and she had.
She had told the Headmaster that she was quitting, and she had moved to Scotland with the father and son. Soon the two fell completely in love and got married, and Wilhelmina had moved from her apartment to their new home.
Tears came to Wilhelmina's eyes as she smoked the same old pipe and remembered moving to Surrey. She had met Arabella Figg in a small shop, and got to know her even more through Albus Dumbledore. She had gotten to visit Minerva McGonagall, her best friend from Hogwarts, when she dropped her adopted son off at Hogwarts. Life had been good.
For several years, things went great. The family grew closer together and added three more beautiful children. By the time the oldest had left Hogwarts, and home, however, things had gone downhill.
Wilhelmina's beloved husband had become ill. He was unable to go to work. Wilhelmina tried to teach, but a long-term teaching job kept her away from her ill husband, and reminded her of meeting him. It had become too hard.
As a couple, the two decided that he should spend his remaining time with her, and that there was enough money for both of them to live for years.
Wilhelmina's husband had died over the summer. Old friends and teachers of theirs had come to the small funeral, as well as their entire family. It had been hard on Wilhelmina, but she had steadily been getting better.
Dumbledore offered her the long term post at Hogwarts, remembering her complete resume from years before, but she had turned it down. Seeing the kids in Hogwarts and teaching them reminded her too much of her late husband.
In small doses, being a professor was fine, but, Wilhelmina was afraid, it would take a toll in time.
As the night slipped away, and the pipe tobacco diminished, Wilhelmina had a tear-streaked face and a heart full of memories and emotions. It was odd, how something she loved had become, in her old age, something that brought on so much pain.
And although she knew that she was qualified, Wilhelmina couldn't stand the thought of teaching without him. He had rescued her from a terrible job, and anything that related to teaching made Wilhelmina sad.
But it also made her happy. Teaching was a nice way to remember him, without feeling like a sappy widow, crying over photographs. Instead, she could be productive. She could cry in her room at night if she had to, but she would teach these kids everything she could.
Sitting alone by the fire, reminiscing about her late husband, she couldn't help but think that teaching was not a sad remembrance of her horrible past, made good by one man, but a sweet reminder of the man she loved so dear.
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