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Chapter 6 : Hogwarts, Late September 1993
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“At Hogwarts,” she muttered, turning the page.
However, Althea could not dismiss that editorial column, and she found herself reading the column:
Some ten years ago, the Daily Prophet began reporting the strange disappearances throughout England of known and reformed Death Eaters. Only two years later, was the murderous vigilante, Kelly Derry, apprehended on the streets of London. After her sensational trial, where she exhibited no remorse for her hideous crimes of murder and mutilation, she was sentenced to life in Azkaban. However, she only served one year of her life sentence because of her apparent suicide. Who could forget her haunting words etched on her prison cell wall as she dangled from the ceiling…?
“Haunting, indeed,” Althea scoffed as she continued to read the article. “More like deranged.”
Nevertheless, I beg to ask the question, where is Kelly Derry? At this moment, a vicious murderer is walking the streets, threatening the lives of all witches, wizards, and Muggles. Is the Ministry capable of capturing such a dangerous fugitive? I dare say not. The Wizarding world needs a ruthless vigilante like Kelly Derry to capture a ruthless killer like Sirius Black. It is a shame that such a person no longer exists. We need you Kelly Derry....
“Oh dear God!” Althea said, exasperated, and threw the Daily Prophet across her office.
The newspaper landed with the editorial facing Althea; the smirking face of Kelly Derry looking back up at her. Althea grimaced as she studied the photograph—a horrible caricature of her former self, a self she desperately wished to forget. The young woman—with chin-length, disheveled, fire-red hair—sneered back at her, and Althea stared deeply into the hardened eyes of the murderous Derry. Had she really changed all that much? She took a small mirror out from her desk drawer and stared into her own eyes. Her blue eyes were older and sadder. The eyes that looked back from the paper were bloodshot—too much alcohol and refined poppy juice the night before—and heartless. She placed the mirror on her desk and continued to stare at the smirking Derry. How had she come to that point? What made her different? Why did she appoint herself judge and deliverer of retribution?
In the quiet of night, when all of Hogwarts was safely asleep, the thoughts of her past flooded her mind. She envisioned the last gasps of breath as she slit the throats and stabbed the chests of the former Death Eaters she executed, but to her they would always be Death Eaters. She saw the ghosts of the children she would never have. Althea slowly guided her hand to her lower abdomen—the scars of her past prevented her from conceiving. Althea often thought what her life would have been like if she lived in some alternate reality. She smiled a bittersweet smile as she thought she might be like a Mrs. Weasley—caring for seven children and taking care of a household. Granted, she could never really envision herself with seven children, but one or two would’ve made her happy. Althea lowered her head. She had to do it—it was the only choice for her at the time in her deranged mind. If only those in the Wizengamot had witnessed what she had witnessed or felt what she had felt. She knew they might have chosen the same path as well.
A gentle knock at her office door startled Althea. “Come in,” she said and quickly stowed the mirror in the desk drawer.
Remus Lupin stuck his head through the doorway. “Are you busy? I hope I’m not interrupting anything,” he said, opening the door.
“Oh no, no,” Althea replied, leaning back in her chair. “Just reliving my past,” she added, pointing to the newspaper on the floor.
Lupin turned around after he closed the door and looked down at the newspaper behind him. “Ah yes, I read that earlier this morning. Fortunately, Kelly Derry is dead,” he said, sitting in a large chair across the desk from her.
“Thank God,” she said, rubbing her forehead. “That is a past I never want to relive.”
“All of us have regrets,” Remus said thoughtfully. “I know I have mine.”
Althea shook her head. “Please, let’s not relive this,” she said quietly. “What brings you back to Hogwarts? I thought you enjoyed the teaching job in France. I thought this was permanent.”
Remus sighed and sank down in the chair. “It was…until the full moon,” he said, frowning. “School benefactors don’t like werewolves teaching their students.”
“I still don’t understand it,” she murmured and sighed, staring at Remus. “You are an excellent teacher—you were meant to teach.”
“Thanks, but not everyone had a father who wrote a book on werewolves,” he said and winked.
“Two books, and maybe I should send them a few copies,” she responded with a wink. “Would you like coffee or tea?” she asked, standing and walking over to a side table.
“Yes, tea please. Thank you.”
“Earl Grey or this…” she said and paused for a moment as she attempted to figure out how to say the name. “Darjeeling,” she continued, frowning at the tin. “I can never pronounce that.”
“As long as it is not chamomile, I’ll be happy.” He sat forward and added, “And don’t give me that ‘World’s Greatest Teacher’ mug either.”
Althea tapped the kettle with her wand and turned to face him. “What if I think you’re the ‘World’s Greatest Teacher?’” she remarked, leaning against the table. “You’re the only one that uses it—it’s your special mug.”
“I’m surprised you don’t use it around Snape,” he replied, leaning back in his chair.
“I would, but I will save that honor for you,” she replied, smiling mischievously. “Have him use it for your Wolfsbane Potion.”
“And have him put sugar in the Wolfsbane? I think not,” he replied, pulling a face. “I like my transformations as mild as possible.”
“Of course,” she replied as the kettle whistled. “How much sugar in your ‘World’s Greatest Teacher’ mug?” she asked, lifting the mug into the air.
“A spoonful and not your spoonful,” he answered, watching Althea put what she thought at tiny spoonful into the mug. “Did you buy yourself this mug?” he asked as Althea handed it to him.
“No,” she said, placing two large spoonfuls of sugar consecutively into her mug. “Afina bought it for me. She thought I needed some cheering up after the disaster of Christmas 1990,” she explained as she walked toward her chair.
“How could I have forgotten?” he teased and took a sip of tea. “I barely escaped Northfield with my honor.”
“Yes, how could you? I mean, Gran still talks about it until this day,” she replied as she sat in her chair. “I try to explain to her. I say, ‘Look, Gran, John Harrington spent most of the 1980’s in and out of rehab for his coke addiction. I don’t want that.’ Right?”
“Right, I never much liked him anyway,” he replied, frowning slightly. “That smarmy—”
“She replies with, ‘You’re thirty-three, you’re past the age of where you can be picky, Althea Rosemary.’ Don’t laugh,” she said, fighting her own smile. She tapped the side of her mug with her manicured nails. “By the way, how was your first day of teaching?” she asked and took a sip of tea.
“It went well,” he said casually, taking a sip of tea. “The third-years effectively rid the staffroom wardrobe of the boggart.”
The mischievous smile had returned to her lips. “I’m impressed. I heard Mr. Longbottom was particularly effective in ridding the staffroom wardrobe of the boggart,” she said as she held the mug to her lips and waited for Remus’s reaction.
Remus stroked the graying hair out of his face and laughed quietly. “I see news still travels quickly here.”
“It does when it concerns Snape,” she said, taking another sip of tea, “the awful bastard.”
“You still don’t trust him, do you?” Remus asked, resting the mug on his knee.
Althea shook her head and frowned. “It’s not that, Remus. I mean, if Dumbledore trusts him, obviously there must be something there that I don’t see. Look, he hired me didn’t he?”
Althea gently bit her bottom lip and stared at her old friend. She never understood why Dumbledore hired Snape; moreover, why Dumbledore hired her. Dumbledore knew she was a murderess for he presided over her trial. At the trial, she felt Dumbledore's piercing eyes examine her, recognizing that it was not Kelly Derry but Althea Morrigan on trial.
“Then what is it about Snape?” Remus asked, stroking the side of his teacup.
“Harry,” Althea sighed and Remus nodded. “He treats Harry like he’s James. He never gave Harry a chance.”
“Yes, I’ve seen the look he gives Harry. It’s the same look he gives us,” he responded and took a long sip of tea. “Harry…doesn’t know about you?” he asked, wiping the corner of his mouth.
Althea sighed and gazed out the window. “No, he doesn’t, and I don’t ever want him to know,” she replied, looking at the sparrow as it hopped along her window. “I don’t know how he could handle the news.”
“That you knew them,” he said. “That you knew the circumstances of their death.”
Althea turned her head back toward her friend and placed the cup of tea on her desk. “Exactly, and the questions that it would bring,” she said, leaning forward in her chair. “How could you tell someone that—God, I can’t even say it!”
Althea buried her face in her hands. How could she tell Harry that his own godfather betrayed his parents and Harry? It was impossible. Harry would not understand, and twelve years later, she still did not understand. It was too horrible. She had her chance to talk with him at the start of his first year. She could have innocently introduced herself, but she was too afraid. She knew Lily would be disappointed in her, but Althea had made her choice. He would think that I abandoned him, but he was taken from us…just as Prudence, she thought and sighed heavily.
“Althea,” he said, and Althea heard the chair shift. She soon felt his hand resting on her shoulder. She closed her eyes and leaned her head against his arm. “I haven’t spoken to Harry, either. I’m just his Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, and I doubt I’ll be anything more,” he continued, smoothing the hair away from her face. “I wouldn’t know where to begin—”
Suddenly, the door swung open, which startled the two, and Remus quickly retracted his hands. Standing in the doorway was Snape, with his arms folded, scornfully looking at the pair. Althea’s stomach lurched forward and Remus hastily sat back in his chair. What does he want, she thought, tugging at her sleeves.
“I should have known,” he sneered, looking at the pair disdainfully.
“What do you need, Snape?” Althea asked, sitting upright in her chair.
“I need to speak with Lupin, but I won’t interrupt your friendly conversation,” he said, turning up his long hooked nose at them.
“I’ll talk with you later,” Remus replied, rubbing his hands together. “Good day, Severus.”
Without uttering any pleasantries, he turned quickly on his heel and walked out of Althea’s office.
“I really can’t picture him in a vulture hat. I see him more in a floppy hat with a large bow, and wearing a grotesquely pink bridesmaid dress,” she remarked, leaning back in her chair. “I think it would bring out the color of his eyes.”
“He hasn’t changed a bit,” he said and wrinkled his nose. “He’s already convinced we’re sleeping together, isn’t he?”
Althea rolled her eyes in disgust. “Snape believes that I have slept with every Defense Against the Dark Arts professor since I’ve been here,” she explained and made a face. “If Quirrell wasn’t abysmal enough, Lockhart, I ask you.”
“Oh dear,” Remus replied, rubbing his chin. “I don’t understand his appeal…. I honestly don’t. I remember you sent me one of his books for a laugh and I never finished it. I think I used it for kindling while in Burkina Faso.”
“Exactly,” she replied, smiling to herself that Remus would do such a thing. “Oh, I used to have fun with him though,” she continued, tracing circles into the wood grain of her desk. “I’d ask him all sorts of questions about his book on werewolves. Of course, he didn’t know the answer so he’d ooze his charm—bloody hell, was he smarmy. He would say that it’s too complicated for a Muggle Studies professor to know, and what would I know, right?” she explained and laughed, shaking her head. “God, I hate him, but Snape still believes those old rumors from our time here.”
“Well you have slept with one Defense Against the Dark Arts professor that I know of,” he said, furrowing his brow as if deep in thought.
“What do you mean?” she said in defiance, leaning forward. “I have not!”
“Yes, you have,” he said, smiling to himself. “Me, or have you forgotten? I doubt you’ve forgotten as you’ve brought up the topic on numerous occasions.”
“Oh, that doesn’t count,” she replied, dismissively waving her hand. “That was ages ago!”
Remus laughed loudly. “Doesn’t count? If I said it didn’t count, you’d start to cry and say how horrible I am!” he replied, running his hands through his hair.
“We were fifteen,” she replied, crossing her legs. “We barely knew what we were doing—I just sort of lay there and you lasted all of like two minutes.”
“I still enjoyed it.”
Remus coughed in an attempt to stifle his laughter. “I suppose you’ll add that I was under the influence of the upcoming full moon?”
“Your words,” she replied, fighting a smile. “I do remember you used that excuse once when attempting to rationalize years later.”
“And what’s your excuse?” he asked, smiling wryly.
“Hormones,” Althea replied, winking.
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