When Hermione is asked to update the National Dictionary of Wizarding Biography, she discovers some surprising things about her favourite professor.
A black, aching despair that had nothing to do with the Dementors’ recent pres-ence enveloped Minerva.
She’d failed to protect Harry Potter.
Dumbledore finally took Harry’s limp hand from hers and folded it neatly onto the boy’s chest, pulling her up and away from the bed where he lay next to Sirius. Sirius’s eyes were closed, but his breath still rasped, his chest moving up and down. Harry’s breathing was quieter, but his eyes were open, deep green pits of nothingness.
She pulled away from Albus and went to Hermione, who sat on her bed, staring as Poppy tested her pupils.
“How is she?”
“Nox,” Poppy said, putting out the light from her wand, and turned to Minerva. She shook her head.
“But she’s sitting up on her own. Surely that means something.”
Poppy put her wand back in her pocket and rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands before answering.
“Physically, women tend to recover faster from trauma than men. But I’m afraid my preliminary tests suggest that there’s little brain activity beyond what’s necessary to sustain life.”
“Minerva, come. Let Poppy work,” Albus said, drawing her away.
Of course, there was nothing Poppy could do, and Minerva knew that sometime in the next few days, Hermione, Harry, and Sirius would be transferred to the Janus Thickey ward at St Mungo’s. It would have happened today, but they’d never had a patient who’d been Kissed before, and Poppy said the Healers were arguing amongst themselves about protocols for treating their incoming celebrity patients.
Minerva followed Albus, not to his office, but to his private quarters. He poured them each a dram of Firewhisky.
“This is my fault.”
The words jolted Minerva because they were exactly the ones she’d been about to utter.
“I should never have permitted the Dementors here,” he said.
“Fudge gave you no choice.”
“There is always a choice!”
An electric crackle tickled her skin and made the hairs at the back of her neck stand up. Albus’s magic, like water from an overfull cup, was escaping in his distress, and she was afraid despite herself. Her own magic was orders of magnitude less powerful than his, and yet she’d done some significant damage on those few occasions when she’d lost control of it. This man could bring the castle down around them all in the blink of an eye.
She put a hand on his arm, half expecting to be thrown across the room by the excess power emanating from him, but he seemed to relax slightly, and he put his hand over hers.
“I’m sorry, Minerva,” he said.
“Don’t be. We’re all wretched at the moment.”
He looked down into his drink for answers. Finding none, he threw it back in one swallow, something she’d never seen him do before. It took her three, and he poured them each another without asking if she wanted it.
She’d never seen him so badly shaken, even during the worst days of the last war.
The liquor seemed to bring him back to himself, and his tone turned businesslike.
“We’ll need to inform Miss Granger’s parents,” he said, and by “we” she knew he meant “you.”
“Yes. I’ll go in the morning. I don’t think I can manage tonight.”
She returned to her quarters and wept her way through four handkerchiefs.
It was going on three o’clock when she rose from her bed and removed the wards from the box that was Concealed at the top of her wardrobe. Gazing into it, she made a decision. Or rather, she acknowledged the decision she’d made the moment she looked into Harry’s blank eyes.
Three hours later, she used the privilege of her position to Floo directly to Albus’s quarters, surprising him before he’d risen from bed.
“There may be a way to save them.”
“Tell me,” he said, pulling on his dressing gown and gesturing for her to sit.
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