Chapter 9 : Tartan Wrapped Suprises
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Tartan Wrapped Suprises
“I am not confused, I am well mixed.”- Robert Frost
Minerva McGonagall was never at a loss for words. When she had been appointed head girl her seventh year and given the opportunity to speak at the graduation ceremony she had written a short and eloquent speech. When she heard of the death of the Potters she had been able to compose herself long enough to speak to Albus about it. When the Marauders had blown up half the great hall with one of their pranks, not once in the hour long lecture she gave them did she have to search for the appropriate thing to say. When Fred and George Weasley were caught blowing up a toilet she had been quite able to compose Molly a letter. Not once when Harry, Ron and Hermione turned up in her office suffering from a variety of bruises and scrapes did she have to think about what to say.
But at the moment she was absolutely tongue-tied. She hadn’t the faintest idea how to respond to Albus. Why she could barely wrap her head around the concept. She was astounded, how could this be possible? How could this be true?
Minerva was seated in one of the maroon armchairs in front of Dumbledore’s desk. Albus was sitting behind, his hands folded on top of the shining mahogany surface. He was feeling quite bad at the moment. Minerva had not said a word since he had explained the situation to her five minutes ago; and Minerva was never at a loss for words.
He had expected her lips to thin and her eyes to narrow. He had expected her to yell at him and perhaps even curse. But he had not expected her to remain stationary in her seat, silent and seemingly shell-shocked form the knowledge he had just made her privy too. Yes, this was not going to end well.
Dumbledore cleared his throat, “Minerva…” he said slowly. Somehow this was seemingly all the Transfiguration Professor needed to spark her tongue.
“You’re serious aren’t you Albus?” Minerva asked, her eyes narrowing as she got up from her seat. Dumbledore nodded, yes he was quite serious about this.
“How… why… Jessabelle Spring has been alive and well over the past decade and you’ve never felt the need to inform me that she was not buried six feet under? One of my favorite students didn’t commit suicide and you never felt the need to inform me that at least one member of that group was not dead or imprisoned?” She said her voice raising.
“Minerva, it was for the best,” Dumbledore said quietly, his eyes imploring her to understand.
She shook her head, “Albus over the years you have been my professor, my friend, my confident, and the person I go to for guidance. You’ve allowed me to be privy to things few others know of. Why couldn’t you tell me this?”
Dumbledore sighed deeply, “I am sorry Minerva. I believed it was the best thing for her. You must understand that I was trying to help her. Jessie was completely alone. Remus had abandoned her because of her faith in Sirius‘ innocence, her two best friends had been murdered, Sirius had been imprisoned… I thought I was helping her. She needed an escape from it all. Her career was ruined, the papers were out for her skin. She was so scared and so alone. I offered her a chance to start over. I was afraid Minerva, so very afraid of what would happen if she didn’t get out,” He finished staring at Minerva through his glasses, hoping to see a look of acceptance and understanding on her face. Instead he found himself being stared down with a look very similar to the one she delivered to the Weasley twins on a seemingly daily basis when class was in session.
“If you wanted to help her so badly then answer me this Albus. Why did you send Sirius to Azkaban without a trial. You told Barty, Merlin rest his soul, that there was not a single shred of doubt in Sirius’ guilt,” Minerva said quietly.
The tension in the air of the office was thick as butter. Albus struggled to meet Minerva’s accusing eyes. He knew this, it had been his fault that Sirius had rotted away in Azkaban for thirteen years. He knew this.
“Yet another mistake to add to my list of regrets,” the ancient headmaster said sadly, “There are many choices I have made in my life that I am not proud of Minerva, and that is one of them. I was so consumed with rage and anger at James and Lily’s deaths that I did not stop to think about it. I did not stop to consider the fact that there was a reason besides love that made Jessie come barreling into my office bawling and screaming that he was innocent. I thought she just couldn’t accept the fact that she had been deceived. James and Lily, two of my brightest, most promising, most beloved pupils had been murdered. I was not thinking clearly Minerva. I wanted justice to be done. All the evidence pointed to Sirius,” Dumbledore shook his head, “I see now that I just took the easy way out. I thought that by putting Sirius behind bars it would help to fix some of the hurt his apparent actions had caused. I was wrong Minerva, so very wrong.”
Minerva returned to her seat silently as Dumbledore ended his speech. She folded her hands, “Why are you telling me this now?”
“Minerva, my dear old friend,” Dumbledore said affectionately, “War is upon us again. I am older than I look. These are risky and unknown times, who knows if we will be here tomorrow. I needed someone else, whom I trust, to know the truth.”
Over the years Minerva McGonagall had come to know Albus very well. She knew when he was avoiding the truth, and this was one of those moments.
“Out with it,” she said bluntly. Dumbledore’s eyes widened, why did she always have to be so very perceptive?
“Jessie is in danger,” He said simply, “Voldemort has recently become very interested in her and the influence she has over a large portion of the population and world. It is the kind of influence he himself craves. He…”
“He’s planning on kidnapping her,” Minerva said harshly, everything clicking into place, “By making Jessie become Celestina you’ve put her in even more danger than she was as the forgotten girlfriend of a murderer,” Minerva scrutinized his face, “Anything else you hadn’t gotten to telling me yet? Yes, there is something… What else have you done Albus?”
“Well as you know Sirius is innocent…”
“And he has offered his home to us as headquarters.”
“Yes Albus I know, you told me this weeks ago.” Minerva’s eyes narrowed. She allowed her lips to thin as she calculated the look on Albus’ face, “You didn’t,” she said, her eyes growing large, “Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore! You told him she’s dead!”
“I…” Dumbledore began (how she had figured that out from what he had just said was a mystery to him), but Minerva interrupted him.
“Of all the stupid things you have ever done! Here you are laminating to me about how awful you feel about ruining Jessie’s life and you have a chance to make at least one thing better and you do this!”
Dumbledore sighed, “But she would of blown her cover. She would of…”
“No! Do not interrupt me! I don’t care how this would of ruined your plan Albus. When will you ever tire of trying to be in control of everything. You can’t mold everything to your will Albus. This isn’t a game of wizard’s chess. These are people’s lives,” she finished sadly. Dumbledore sighed deeply and looked down at his desk. Suddenly he felt a soft hand touch his cheek, “You’re not a bad person Albus. You want so much good for everyone that sometimes you let your own will get in the way of what really might be best for them.”
Minerva straightened her glasses and sat back down. The two sat in the silence of their own thoughts for a moment before Dumbledore broke it, “There’s something else. I haven’t told you yet. Jessie doesn’t know that Voldemort is after her.”
Remus crept into the apartment silently. He slipped off his shoes and he stepped out on to the hearth, in hopes that it would reduce the noise of his walking to his room. He gazed around the room. It was dark; the only noise the constant tick-tock of the clock. He let out a sigh of relief. Jessie was already asleep. He had mentally prepared himself for the grilling he had been certain he was going to receive, but alas she was asleep already. No one out here except for him, the coffee table and the sofa. He turned around and froze mid-step towards the hall doorway. The lights flickered on. Standing there, wand raised and hand on hip was Jessie, in all her pink bunny slippered glory.
“You,” she said in a deadly voice. Remus gulped and held his hands up, palm towards Jess, “Now Jess, let’s act like mature…”
She smiled evilly, “No need to be frightened Remmy dearest. Now where have you been?” she asked in a sickeningly sweet falsetto.
“On a mission for Dumbledore, as you know…” Remus said slowly, “and you know I can’t tell you the details Jess…”
Jessie jabbed her finger into his chest, “Now listen here wolf boy! I know you were with him!”
Remus groaned, he had forgotten how bipolar Jessie could be.
“Jess I wasn’t…” he began to protest, but Jessie stopped him, “Remus John Lupin! I know you were with him! Just tell me!”
“I can’t!” Remus suddenly bellowed holding onto Jessie’s shoulders, “I really can’t Jess. I am sorry. Listen ask Dumbledore tomorrow at the meeting if it’s that important.”
Jessie froze, her eyes wide, “Meeting?”
“We have an Order meeting tomorrow at headquarters,” Remus said frowning, “you forgot?”
“No I just didn’t realize… Is everyone going to be there?” Jessie said not meeting Remus’ eyes.
Suddenly the light bulb went off in Remus’ head. Jessie was nervous about seeing Sirius. Despite all her complaining and groaning about not being able to see him, now that the time had finally come, she was absolutely terrified at the prospect. Remus chuckled, “Yes Blondie, everyone will be there,” he smiled at the now frazzled Jessie.
“Right. Right then. Off to bed then. Need my beauty sleep if I’m masquerading tomorrow. Right then… Shit…” she mumbled as she padded down the hallway.
Remus chuckled to himself as he closed the door to the guest room, Tomorrow was certainly going to be interesting.
It had been ages since she had become Celestina, but Jessie still loathed the finger pointing and whispering that occurred when she entered a room. She and Remus had arrived at Grimmlaud Palace not ten minutes ago and nearly every person cramped in the dinning room (or at least what used to be a dinning room) had either directly pointed at her, gasped, or begun furiously whispering to his or her neighbor. Such was the joy of being a celebrity. She gave the plump woman across from her a small smile as she began tapping the table nervously. It seemed as though everyone except for him had arrived, and he lived in the blooming house. Where on earth could he possibly be, she wondered to herself. Remus chuckled next to her, “You look like death Celestina,” he whispered to her.
“Shut up puff ball,” she hissed back. Remus rolled his eyes, honestly, he thought, after all this time one would really think her insults would of improved.
“Where is Sirius?” Dumbledore asked as he swept into the room, Snape and McGonagall at his heels.
“Probably upstairs with Witherwings,” Remus shook his head. Dumbledore sighed and motioned towards one of the tall, ginger men on the other side of the table, “Charlie will you go fetch him.”
Charlie nodded and exited the room.
“We will begin when Mr. Weasley has returned with Mr. Black,” Dumbledore said sitting down at the head of the table. Jessie chanced a look up at him. She found herself staring into the eyes of her former Transfiguration Professor who pressed her lips into a thin line at the sight of her. Jessie bit her lip as McGonagall sent a soft smile her way. Typical Dumbledore, telling McGonagall and not letting me know that he’s done it, Jessie grumbled mentally. She sent a small smile back to the Professor and then reverted her gaze back to the wooden table top in front of her.
She could hear the creaking of the steps in the hallway. Her heart seemed to hammer harder and harder against her ribcage as the creaks got louder. She could do this, she could see him again. Relax, she said to herself, you aren’t Jessie anymore. He won’t have the slightest clue it’s you.
Remus seemed to sense her fear and patted her arm under the table. She looked at him and he smiled faintly at her reassuringly.
The creaking stopped and the click of footsteps on wood began. Oh Merlin, Jessie thought furiously, he’s almost here. She wanted to throw up, to run away; both of which would of look entirely strange to everyone in the room. Celestina Warbeck had no reason to be so shaken up by the appearance of Sirius Black.
“Sirius, late as usual,” Dumbledore sighed, “When I said it was good to see the old you start to re-appear I was thinking more along the lines of your smile, your jokes, your good sense for strategy; not your old habits, one of which is your keen ability to always arrive late to everything,” Dumbledore finished as Sirius took the open seat next to him.
Jessie dared not look up. The tabletop was fascinating, simply fascinating.
Sirius grinned at his old headmaster, “It’s good to see you again too Professor,” he laughed.
Jessie’s breath hitched in her throat and it took all her self control not to begin bawling. Merlin, it really was him.
“Snape,” Sirius said coldly as he nodded to the black haired man sitting across from him.
“Black,” Severus said just as coldly. Dumbledore rolled his eyes, “Before we let petty, school day differences take us entirely off topic, let us begin the meeting.”
As Dumbledore began addressing business and such Jessie slowly let her gaze move from the tabletop to the room around her. She took a slow and steady breathe as she let her eyes drift over to where Sirius was sitting. Her heart hammered and her breath hitched as she took him in.
She had prepared herself for the worst, especially after she had seen the last photos of him in Azkaban. She had expected to see sunken eyes, scraggly hair and yellow skin clinging to his bones. It was true that he was still not the beautiful boy she had once known, he was still a bit too thin for her liking. But he was no longer the emaciated, deranged looking ghost of the Azkaban photos. He was her Sirius.
Since the time the photos had been taken he had definitely changed for the better. His skin had a good tan to it and his face was clean shaven. His brown eyes were no longer sunken into his face and his hair had been cut, although it was still a bit too long for Jessie’s liking. He no longer looked like a corpse, but a living, breathing person. Jessie twisted her hands under the table, he was okay. A bit sad looking, but he was okay.
Then suddenly his head began to turn around, Jessie froze, unsure of what to do. She had been caught looking at him. Brown met blue. Sirius’ eyes narrowed for a second and he cocked his head to the side. There was something about her, who was she, he thought to himself.
Jessie’s heart began hammering even harder, oh Merlin if he figured it out, if he were to find out. She tore her eyes away and turned her gaze back to the tabletop. Suddenly she heard Dumbledore say her name.
“As most of you already know, Ms. Warbeck here has been gathering information for us from the top of society. She has managed to find out that the Malfoy family has begun to gain even more influence among pureblood society. She has also managed to learn that even the Carrow’s have begun to answer to the Malfoy’s. Thank you Celestina,” Dumbledore finished nodding to her.
Jessie nodded back serenely.
“And with that I believe it is time to conclude the meeting. Ms. Warbeck, Mr. Lupin and Mr. Black if you could possibly stay for a few moments. Minerva as well,” Dumbledore said, “No Severus I do not need you, you may go.”
As Dumbledore sat back down the rest of the room began to get back up. Chairs were moved and slowly the Order members made their way towards the exit. Once the room was emptied Dumbledore shut the door with a flick of his wand, after muttering a few incantations he began to speak, “As all of you know Ms. Warbeck here has quite a great deal of influence in our world. Celestina I am sorry you must hear this now, but Voldemort has recently become very interested in you.”
Jessie frowned, this was not good.
“It has recently come to my attention that he wishes to kidnap you and use you in order to gain greater influence…”
“But Sir I would never…” Jessie interrupted furiously.
“I know Celestina my dear, I know you would never, but there are ways he could manipulate and control you. Which is why I regret to say that you must be put under protection of the Order.”
Jessie crossed her arms, “Sir that is entirely un-needed! I can take care of myself!”
“Celestina,” Dumbledore said firmly, “I am not doing this to annoy you, I am trying to protect you. Monroe and I have already discussed it. After the meeting you will return to your apartment, Mr. Lupin here will escort you, and then, without any kicking or screaming, you return back here to Headquarters.”
“Return back here?” Jessie said slowly. Remus and Sirius also fixed Dumbledore with inquisitive gazes, “Where will I go after that?”
“You will go nowhere after that. This is the safest place in the world for you now Celestina. You shall stay here under the protection of Misers Lupin and Black,” Dumbledore said, nodding to Sirius and Remus. Sirius shrugged as he leaned back in his seat. Remus on the other hand simply nodded as he fought back his laughter.
“So it is decided then,” Dumbledore nodded to the three as he stood up, “Shall we Minerva.” McGonagall stood as well and nodded to the trio. They began making their way to the door.
“And Celestina my dear,” Dumbledore said turning as he opened the door.
“Yes Sir?” she asked glaring.
“I do expect you to be on your best behavior for Mr. Lupin and Mr. Black,” he said with a smile and nod.
“Of course Sir,” she said sweetly.
Dumbledore smiled and shut the door.
Oh yes, I did go there… haha! Hopefully you enjoyed it!
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