Chapter 17 : Head Teachers and Wrong Choices
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"Mr Wood. Thank you for joining us."
McGonagall's words were polite, but her tone was curt and her eyes disapproving. I kept my eyes facing forward, ignoring everything except for the excruciating pain in my ribs. They were mending, and it was awful.
"I'm sorry I'm late. I got held up at work. I would have called, but I don't know Hogwarts' number."
"We don't have one. May we begin?"
It was so incredibly awkward in here. My mum sat to my right, her posture and her face rigid. She was already here when I'd arrived, and hadn't said a word to me. For the past ten minutes we'd sat in uncomfortable silence, albeit for the nervous nibblings from me on one of McGonagall's offered biscuits.
No matter how hard times get, I swear that I will never turn down a biscuit.
Unless there's a chance of poison.
Or I'm allergic.
My Dad looked so young. He was reasonably old, but his hair was still full and grey-less. He had stayed in good shape, and his innocent (though worried) face was clear of any signs of aging.
I almost wanted to hold his hand as he stared at my head teacher, looking like a fifteen-year-old about to be scolded.
I didn't though. I just sat, gritting my teeth and trying to listen. I didn't do that either in the end.
"Your daughter was hit by bludger during the Gryffindor-Slytherin match on Saturday. She was unconscious until Sunday evening, when she promptly fell asleep again after...a brief conversation."
I stifled a laugh at McGonagall's choice of words. Aidan hadn't let me forget the first thing I'd said totally coherently.
I'm lucky Pomfrey was too busy being relieved to tell me off when I reawakened.
"But she's okay, right? No permanent damage?" My Dad gushed. McGonagall smiled at him reassuringly.
"Nothing permanent. Her ribs are healing now actually. Madame Pomfrey didn't do it until today - she didn't want any of the other medicines still in your daughter to disturb the process. But as soon as all the bruising is cleared up, she's free to go around as usual. With your permission, of course."
I frowned. My Dad frowned. My Mum sighed.
"She can do whatever she likes. Why should I care? I'm barely her legal mother anymore." She said. I flinched at the cold tone, wondering what Rebecca had survived with her.
"Of course she has my permission. I trust that she knows her limits, and will see Madame Pomfrey immediately if she feels uncomfortable." My Dad added, trying to settle an obviously disturbed Professor McGonagall. She nodded with a tight-lipped smile, her eyes still wavering over my mum.
"Very well then. However, this isn't the only reason I called you in today. It's Kasy's sixth year, and her NEWTs are getting closer. Before we know it, next year will be upon us, and then she will have to venture out on her own. I just want to make sure that she doesn't go unprepared."
I tilted my head slightly in confusion, grinning slightly when I noticed my Dad doing the same. Bad habits, Mum always called them. I preferred to see them as family traits.
"I understand that professional Quidditch is a role Kasy's highly interested in, and as you work within that business, she does have a better chance than some to get into it, along with her marvellous performance as a Chaser. But it doesn't change the fact that it's a hard business to get into, and she will need a back-up plan."
My Dad had looked chuffed until the last statement. Worry now furrowed along his forehead, his teeth chewing at his lip anxiously.
"I have heard from Professor Flint that Kasy is an honourable student during all her lessons, and has shown admirable knowledge and determination during his one-on-one sessions with her on Alchemy. Perhaps that is a role you'd consider?"
She addressed me this time, realising that my parents were no good during conversations like this. Dad was hopeless at serious business, and Mum was acting colder and more ruthless than a vampire. It was best to back away before she took the bite.
"I don't really know. There doesn't seem like there's a lot of spaces in that area." I came up with. My voice was still scratchy and quiet- 'like a claw on a blackboard' according to Aidan.
"Nonsense! It's a bit of a dying subject, but the Ministry is interested in reviving it. If quidditch doesn't work out, or even if it does, applying wouldn't be a bad idea. It's a job not for certain hours, and always an option when you have to retire."
I hummed, thinking about it. Managing stuff like my Dad went on to do didn't seem to suit me.
"I'll leave you to think about it. Me and your parents can clear up the rest of the details of your injury while you rest. Thank you for staying." McGonagall smiled, offering me a final biscuit. I took it, letting my Dad pull me into a hug, and left her office. I stood in the large room before the twirling exit, where portraits glared and trinkets were stashed and visitor's tapped their feet.
There were no visitors anymore. Just me, a dozen old headmasters, and a large collection of strange and rare artefacts.
Those words hadn't stopped echoing around any of our heads. We'd been arguing with Madame Pomfrey, me and Aidan and Rose, and we'd heard a murmur from her bed.
She was awake.
We stood in silence as Pomfrey checked her, and all burst out in relieved laughter when we heard those words.
She was awake.
I hadn't seen her since then, but that didn't matter. She was in a meeting now, with McGonagall and her parents. We all sat in the common room, another silence sitting heavily on our shoulders.
None of us could believe it. She was awake, and she was healing, and everything was going to be okay.
I caught Rebecca looking at me from next to Laura. They were doing homework. She gave me a hesitant smile.
I grinned back. For once, everything was going to be okay.
I felt cold.
I was so. Fucking. Tired.
My insides were burning from the potion. But also not from that. From the pain and the relief and the worry and the shame and the tired.
Four years. It had been four years since I found out. Since I covered my sister with fish guts, and screamed at her, and cried for the first time in front of somebody else.
Albus had held me then as well, just like he did earlier this year. Way back in September, barely a few days in to school.
I was about to leave when I heard someone sigh from behind me. I turned cautiously, seeing no one standing there. Until...
I stared at where the raspy voice had come from. The leather folded over itself, looking weary and old.
"Hat." I replied, not knowing if he had any other name. Some sort of garble came out from its 'mouth', which I guessed was a laugh.
"You seem almost as weary as me." He pointed out. I ducked my head slightly, trying to cover up the dark circles under my eyes and the pale, almost grey tinges of my skin.
"I got hit by a bludger. Nasty stuff."
I waited in the silence. He seemed thoughtful. I think anyway- it's hard to tell when you're talking to an accessory.
"There is a question, on the tip of your tongue. Ask it."
My mind flashed back to the room, where McGonagall had told me of another option. I'd never thought of other options. Quidditch. That had always been my goal. And all it had taken to make it shake was a simple suggestion from an elderly woman.
"Do you ever worry that you've made the wrong choice?" I finally whispered.
"Have you?" He asked back.
Forgetting my sister. Running from Albus. Not taking all those chances I had with him. Not seeing that bludger. Not controlling my temper. There were too many for me to think about. So I nodded. He sighed.
"Always. I always worry about making the wrong choice. I have done it multiple times. Do you ever wonder what would have happened if I'd sorted Tom Riddle somewhere other than Slytherin? He could have fitted quite well into Ravenclaw. Do you think things would have turned out as they did?"
I didn't reply.
"But then...then someone like you comes along, and everything is clear. I begin to realise that I was right all along."
Behind me, the head teachers had stopped giggling, and were silent. Almost anticipating.
"Thank you." I smiled, stepping back and out of the office. My feet were running before I'd even realised what corridor I was in.
I knew every crack, every picture, every fact about this place. There were no hidden rooms or secret passages that I didn't know about.
So I ran.
I FEEL LIKE THE FLASH! SEE MY SPEED!
So today I finished writing all of the chapters (impressed?). Obviously they'll need editing, but I'm planning to stay on track with my updates of awesomeness. ;) Leave a review please- it may help the old cogs keep on turning!
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