Chapter Fourteen: Still Got It
"Transfigurations is one of the most important branches of magic know to man and it is essential for a witch or wizard to gain some semblance of mastery over the subject," Minerva drilled her third year Ravenclaw- Hufflepuff class. They were her fourth class of the day, a double session now, and had learned from the previous classes that the new professor was not one to be tampered with.
Her first class of fifth-year Gryffindors and Slytherins had learned that the hard way. A few students in the class, the trouble makers, strolled in five minutes late and she took fifty points from each of their houses, ten for each minute they were late. Most of the class settled down after that, and even more were silenced after her strict opening speech. Her Gryffindors were proud of her, in their own way, for being an immovable force against adversaries. However, the Slytherins were infuriated with the new teacher who could command a class as easily as their own Head of House.
Erlik Malfoy, self-appointed "king of the house" and nephew of Lucius Malfoy, refused to be mollified by some mudblood Gryffindor witch, and foolishly said as much, but not in those exact words (he wasn't suicidal). Minerva, remembering the sparse times over the years when this had happened, did not snap. Instead, she called him forward to stand with her before the class.
"Mr. Malfoy, I understand that you are under the impression that you are far superior in your abilities in transfigurations. Is that so?" she leveled him with an ominous glare reserved for the occasions when she needed to discipline difficult students.
The blonde boy paled visibly, but refused to back down, and met her gaze, flinching slightly.
She narrowed her eyes and continued, "Perhaps you would like to demonstrate your skills."
She passed him a smooth rock and gestured for him to get on with it. Erlik, who did indeed have admirable transfigurations skills, took the stone and sauntered to the top of the dais. Minerva stood in the aisle of the room, keeping her face completely neutral.
The boy pointed his wand at the stone and furrowed his brow in concentration. After a few minutes, the rock had turned into a menacing dog, a pit bull, snarling and foaming at the mouth. With a satisfied smirk, he turned to Minerva and met her level gaze with a patronizing look.
"Very good, Mr. Malfoy," she said without blinking. With a barely perceptible wave of her wand, the docile quill on one of his fellow Slytherin's desk roared into the head of a huge, ancient reptilian creature that craned its neck and snapped up the dog in a second then transfigured back into the quill. The entire class stared at the quill open-mouthed and Malfoy was visibly shaking - the head had come within inches of his own body. They slowly turned to gape at their transfigurations teacher as she commanded firmly, "Now sit down." He walked back to his seat trembling and nearly fainted into his chair.
By lunchtime, the entire school had heard of the incident, and she was immediately a legend - revered by the Gyrffindors and scorned quietly by the Slytherins. The sixth and seventh years could be heard saying something along the lines of, "See? I told you she was good!" "Good? She's bloody brilliant!"
The result was placated classes after lunch, such as her present third years. It amazed her how a single day of teaching was all that was needed in order to return her to a pristine "teacher mode."
"For homework," she announced as the class drew to a close, "I want a two foot summary of chapters one and two, answer the questions on the board, and read over chapter three for the next class. You are dismissed," she finished at the exact same time as the bell rang.
As the students filed out of her classroom, Minerva sank gratefully into her seat behind the heavy mahogany desk and breathed a soft sigh. She smiled to herself as she heard excited babble near closer and closer to her door. Harry rounded into the classroom, talking animatedly with Professor Flitwick, who was nodding and grinning at the young boy's enthusiasm.
"Ma!" the boy exclaimed running up to her after bidding farewell to the other professor as the man nodded to Minerva, "Guess what I learned today!"
"What did you learn, Harry?" she asked dutifully, lifting the boy up and placing him in her lap.
"Professor Sprout's plants can eat people, but some of them can help you too, and Professor Snape's teaching me adding, and Uncle Albus - er - Professor Dumblebore said that history is the most exciting subject because we can know the future mistakes from it, and Professor Flitwick says I have a very good accent in Latin and that I won't have trouble with the spells I learn when I start with the magic."
The boy said all of this very quickly, without pausing for breath. Now he looked up at Minerva with huge pleading eyes that begged to be taught.
"Can we do English now, ma?" he asked, then quickly corrected himself, "I mean Professor McGonagall."
"Well, Harry, I have to admit I don't have anything planned for today. I didn't find out about any of this until yesterday. So," she told Harry, fighting to keep an amused smile off of her face, "I suppose we will have to improvise."
"Improvise means when you make up a plan as you go."
"Oh! Like wingin' it?"
Minerva cursed Amanda Hooch in every language she knew. She had not counted on having to wipe out the horrible, nearly American, grammar her friend had instilled in her son over the years.
"Harry, when you are in my classroom, I don't ever want to hear any of Aunt Manda's sayings, understood?"
"Yes, Professor McGonagall," he answered solemnly.
"All right, then," she said, placing him on the floor, "take a seat and let's get started."
Harry ran eagerly to the pair of desks in the front row, sliding into the aisle seat and looking up at her expectantly. First, she quizzed him on words that he should know already, like "cat" and "dog." She grinned as he scribbled furiously on the sheet of parchment before him, brow furrowed in concentration as he remembered his letters and sounded the words out. After she dictated five, she paused and summoned the paper up to her desk.
"Very good, Harry," she commented with a smile, "Now for a few harder words."
'Colors,' she thought, Harry was an avid color-er and took much pride in being able to sound out the names of the crayons he used. Ten colors later, she sat beside him and read over his answers. All of them were correct, but the "w" in "yellow" looked a bit off. She had him write the word again, and saw his difficulty with that particular letter. Just to check that none of his other letters were warped, she had him write the entire alphabet, which he had learned by the time he was five. She noted a few letters that had extra loops or neglected lines. Drawing out another sheet of parchment, she wrote the letters 'f', 'j', 'q', and 'w'.
"Do you know which letters these are, Harry?" she asked patiently. He read each one correctly as she pointed to them. Then she questioned, "Do you see what you did wrong here?" pointing to the line of letters he had written. The line was crooked, rising and growing larger by the end, but otherwise neatly written, for a six year old.
"Oh!" he said triumphantly, spotting his mistakes. "The f's got a curly thing on the end, that's not right. And the j's curved the wrong way. And the q looks funny - too many circles. And the w is only supposed to have two loopy things, not three."
"Very good," she said again, nodding. "Now write them again ten times each, and leave space between each letter."
Obediently, he wrote the letters down correctly, pausing now and again to cast over his work. When the task was done, he looked up at Minerva again with those eyes. Resisting the urge to kiss him right on the tip of his adorable button nose, Minerva looked at his letters and nodded approvingly. She then had him write the alphabet once more, and, satisfied that it was near enough to perfect, she summoned a book from the side drawer of her desk.
It was a bright blue book with the picture of a cat wearing a red and white stripped hat. A distant cousin, Rosilande Gretan, now Rosie Cummings, had moved to the United States over a decade ago and lived there with her husband and three children. Once she got wind of Minerva's adoption (via Amanda), she sent a long letter to the witch, recommending books and offering her advice. Minerva had found much of her cousin's advice border- line ridiculous, such as "give him some slack so he doesn't hate you" and "you are his mother, but you're his friend first", but had to admit that her recommended books were excellent. After breezing through a few of Dr. Seuss' books, she was amazed, and was even more impressed when she found that his stories had made it into muggle society. She had kept the books hidden, waiting until Harry could read them on his own before letting him see them.
"We're done writing for today, but now I would like you to read this to me," she told him as he gazed at the book with a keen interest. Picking up the book, he giggled as the cat on the cover tipped its hat to him and winked.
On the first page there was a bright orange house, with a sickly looking tree to the side. In the window, two small children sat looking properly dejected as the rain came pouring down in sheets.
"The sun did not shine," he began slowly, his finger following every word, "It was too wet to play./ So we sat in the house/ All that cold, cold, wet day." He continued on at the same, slow, steady pace giggling slightly as he read when the cat made his entrance and performed his tricks and gasped when he fell and everything he held plummeted straight to the floor. He grinned as the knowing goldfish ordered the troublesome cat away, and read with wide eyes as the cat refused. "'I will not go away./ I do not wish to go!/ And so,' said the Cat in the Hat,/ 'So/ so/ so./ I will show you/ Another good game that I know!'"
He read with such enthusiasm that Minerva chuckled as she tugged the book out of his hands. "Class is over for today," she said firmly when he began to protest. "We'll finish reading this tomorrow."
"But what's the cat gonna do, Ma?" he asked with wide eyes. He spun around when he heard a low chuckle from the back of the classroom.
"Uncle Albus!" he exclaimed, jumping up and running to the headmaster. Belying his elderly appearance, the tall man with a sweeping white beard scooped the child up with as much ease as a man years younger. Without any trace of stiffness, he straightened and chuckled as Harry began talking a mile a minute, telling him about his day and everything he had learned. Minerva, presently rising from her seat in the first row, had received the abridged version at the very beginning of the lesson, but it seemed that Albus was getting the full-length account.
She grinned at the pair thinking, 'Who would have thought? Five years ago he practically despised the boy's very being.' No, despised wasn't the right word, she corrected mentally, but was unable to come up with exactly the right word to describe the man's prior feelings towards Harry. She involuntarily frowned as she continued to wonder about the correct phrase, but realized that her confusion must have been written all over her face when Albus met her eyes with a very puzzled look. She grinned and shook her head, both to answer his silent question as well as to rid the thoughts from her mind.
Picking up the book, she walked up to her desk and put it back in its place. Turning back to Harry and Albus, she caught the headmaster's eye and froze. However, she was not given much time to analyze, for as quickly as the mystery look was there, it vanished, replaced by his usual jovial twinkle. The moment passed quickly and she made her way to them, the look shoved viciously to the back of her mind.
Albus smiled his calming smile at her and she couldn't help but grin back, tuning in to Harry's report, which had been going on none stop for the last few minutes.
"And Professor Flitwick taught me how to count to ten in Latin!"
"Oh did he now?" came the headmaster's amused response.
"Unus, duo, tres," Harry said confidently, continuing all the way up to ten. By the time the students for her next and final last began to arrive, Harry had recounted all of his classes, and was in the process of describing his math lesson with Professor Snape. The two adults listened contentedly to the boy's chatter, interjecting the proper exclamations and encouragement in all the right places.
"Professor Snape is a little grouchy, but he's ok," Harry spoke on, oblivious to the amused grins exchanged over his head. "He says I'm promising with my numbers and he's gonna teach me adding soon. Not just the little numbers like Perce did, but with really big numbers!"
"Harry, I think we need to leave, your ma needs to teach now," Albus told the boy gently.
"Are you gonna be done soon?" Harry asked, his eyes watering slightly.
"I'll be done very soon," she replied, smoothing his ever- unmanageable hair. "What will the two of you do in the meantime?"
"Can we go see Professor Kettleburn?" Harry immediately asked, turning his head to Albus for confirmation.
The headmaster glanced over at his deputy who smiled and nodded, then answered, "I do believe he will be preparing a few Kneazels for his classes tomorrow."
Minerva grinned at Harry's ecstatic expression and said, "You behave yourselves, both of you," she added, giving the headmaster a stern look. He twinkled back at her and she shook her head, turning back to her class.
"Six year Gyffindor-Slytherin," she groaned inwardly, keeping her face neutral, "I don't have the strength for this."
"Good afternoon class," she stated firmly. Even if she was a bit drained, she wasn't about to let it interfere with her teaching. "Please take out your textbooks and turn to page thirteen," she commanded, walking to the front of the class. She heard the rustle of bags and papers behind her as the students pulled out their copies of "Advanced Transfigurations" by Emeric Switch.
The two figures watched her for a moment from the doorway. Then Harry tugged at the headmaster's beard and looked up at him expectantly. Chuckling quietly Albus repositioned the boy in his arms and they left to find Professor Kettleburn.
The sixth years filed out of her classroom an hour later, chatting about their class and homework. Albus waded through the students, Harry again in his arms as to avoid being trampled. Once through the throng, he put the boy down and grinned as he bolted up to the dais and gave the tired- looking witch in the seat behind the desk an affectionate hug. Smiling, Minerva returned the hug and leaned back in her chair, pulling Harry up onto her lap. Albus smiled at the woman and waved good-bye from the doorway, wanting to give mother and son some alone time. Minerva smiled in reply and mouthed, "supper" to which he replied with another smile and nod.
"What're we gonna do now, Ma?" Harry questioned, "Are your classes done?"
"Yes, Harry, all of my classes are over for today," she replied.
"Ma, are you ok?" he asked worriedly, he had never seen his mother so tired at this time of the day.
"I'm fine, love," she answered with a smile, "I just have to get re- used to all of this teaching."
The boy didn't look convinced, but complied as Minerva shooed him off her lap and rose to gather her papers. Harry crossed his arms and looked up at her with an annoyed look as she attempted to pile all of her papers and books into a pie to carry. Frowning, he tugged on her skirts and held a demanding hand up to her expectantly. She looked down at him questioningly and shook her head in resignation when she saw his disapproving glare. Pulling a folder out of a drawer, she placed a few papers in it and handed it to Harry, who looked at the contraption curiously. Gathering the three textbooks her classes worked from along with the rest of the papers balanced precariously on top, she motioned with her head for Harry to lead the way.
"Can we go to the staff room?" he asked eagerly.
"All right," she replied. "Why so excited?"
"Uncle Marcus said he was gonna be in the staff room later - and it's later now."
As they rounded the corner, they nearly collided with Albus. Grinning, the headmaster commented, "It seems we are all headed in the same direction," as he caught Harry before he fell over. Relieving the boy of his burden, he gestured him ahead and fell into step beside Minerva. Reaching over, he snatched the papers off the top of the pile before she could protest.
"How did you find your return to teaching?" he asked cautiously, not wanted to come outright and comment on her tired appearance.
"Albus, I'm fine," she said firmly, knowing exactly what he was getting at.
As they reached their destination, Harry reached up a small hand and leaned against the heavy door, pushing with all his might, while Albus pushed it open above him.
Harry clattered into the room, and greeted the two professors there. Professor Marcus Kettleburn of Care of Magical Creatures sat across from the young, courteous astronomy teacher, Arini Sinastra. The young witch greeted Harry with a warm smile as the gray-haired wizard ruffled his hair affectionately. Albus held the door open for Minerva as she smiled and sidled past him into the room.
"Starting a little early this year, are we?" Marcus commented dryly, eyeing the huge stack of papers in the headmaster's arms, knowing full well who they belonged to.
"I just wanted to see how much they've learned while I was away, it's nothing serious," she said calmly, stepping over to a long desk and arranging the quizzes into piles according to the students' year. Neither teacher in the room had papers to grade, but were going over their course outlines with the texts for their class beside them.
"I'll bet," the wizard snorted.
"Congratulations on your performance this morning, Professor McGonagall," Professor Sinastra said grinning.
Minerva blushed as Marcus gave a hearty guffaw and Albus chuckled - she had always hated to give the other teachers something to tease her about. The last time they had had any ammunition to use was when James Potter and Sirius Black had charmed her entire classroom a brilliant shade of pink for Valentine's Day during their third year. Needless to say, that was the last time they ever attempted to pull a prank on their Head of House, whose explosive temper had quickly become an infamous school legend.
"We were all wondering if you'd gone soft with this little rascal to look after," Marcus said, wrestling Harry with one arm as the boy fought back with all his strength. "But no, you've still got it."
"I still have what?" she inquired, curious to see where this conversation might go.
"You still have 'the way' of the super teacher about you," he said seriously, raising his right hand and pointing his middle and forefinger at his head as he mentioned "the way." Shaking her head amusedly, Minerva sat down at the long table and began to mark her papers. She quickly fell into an almost forgotten rhythm, her quill scratching over the papers in practiced measures, correcting mistakes and making suggestions. Five classes in one day was a tiring ordeal, and that wasn't counting Harry's hour. Three classes in the morning, an hour at eleven for lunch, a double sessions, another hour at two for Harry, and then her final class filled her entire day - from eight o'clock in the morning until four o'clock in the evening.
Albus and Marcus shared a knowing look as they regarded the woman working furiously in the corner. Marcus rose, picking Harry up and turning him upside down as the boy giggled. Marcus Kettleburn was very tall and built on sturdy muscles. His right hand was missing a pinky and ring finger, and his left arm from the elbow down was a flesh and metal substitute for his missing limb. A heart-throb in his younger years with bright blue-green eyes and a classical square jaw, he had retained his charming looks even at eighty. With the six year old boy upside down in his arms, he walked over to Minerva and stood before her.
"Minnie, dear, you can't be working so hard. The school year's only just begun."
He received an icy glare in response, along with, "These quizzes are hardly taxing, Marc. And upright my son this instant."
He hated to have his name shortened as much as she did and contemplated snatching her quill away from her just as he used to do when they were in school together. He thought better of it, knowing she could easily hex him into the middle of next week, and placed Harry feet first on the ground. The boy giggled and ran over to Albus, who had taken Marcus' seat across from Arini. Flopping down into the chair beside Minerva, the man stared at her shrewdly. Knowing that this was one of the easiest ways to annoy the woman, he settled comfortably in his seat and waited for the irritated shout. The reaction he was waiting for never came, however, and Marcus instead found himself under the full body bind facing the opposite direction.
"Don't you dare cast the counter course, Albus," came a somewhat amused voice from behind him. "Not until I'm done anyway."
Albus chuckled from his seat as Harry scrambled back over to Marcus and looked at him with a reprimanding glint in his eye. The boy shook his head knowingly and commented, "You should have known better, Uncle Marcus."
At that moment, Professor Snape and Madame Hooch entered. Amanda took one look at the frozen form of Professor Kettleburn and burst out laughing as Harry jumped out of the man's lap and over to the newly entered pair. Snape regarded the scene with apparent disgust and strode to a seat in the far corner of the room. Harry trailed after him quietly and sat beside him as the man began to work. Seemingly ignoring the boy, Snape began to grade the tests he had given his older classes, from the fifth year up. After the first paper, he fished about in his robes for something. Finding it, he held a small, positively cute garden snake out to Harry, whose eyes lit up and he began to chat animatedly with it. Fighting back a satisfied smile, the potions master focused back on his work, listening to the boy beside him hiss and whisper to the snake slithering about in his hands. All of the teachers there knew about the boy's ability and were not surprised when he sat down on the floor at Snape's feet conversing happily with the small green reptile.
An hour and a half later, Minerva laid down her quill with a triumphant smile. The papers were finally finished. With a wave of her wand, she released Marcus of the full body bind, but left the curse on his lips so she didn't have to listen to his ridiculous remarks. The man stood and stretched, throwing a pebble from his pocket at Amanda and gesturing to his mouth. With a wave of the other witch's wand, his lips were back to normal and he began to rant at the stern transfigurations teacher. She tuned him out easily and gestured to Harry, who sprang up and started towards her. Stopping after a few steps, he turned back to the potions master who was still at his papers. The boy offered the snake back to him, and grinned happily when the man waved him away, practically telling him to keep it. Harry scampered cheerfully out of the room with his mother and his new pet, as Minerva cast a scathing glare at the potions master. She hated snakes.
Long after supper was over, Minerva lounged before the fire in her living room, staring thoughtfully into the flames. Harry was fast asleep curled up beside and on top of her outstretched body, twitching ever so slightly as he lost himself in his dreams. Try as she might, her thoughts kept returning to that afternoon, just after her class with Harry had ended. "That look," she said to herself in a whisper. She couldn't get it out of her head, but as she tried harder and harder to remember that exact moment, another face took the place of Albus Dumbledore's. The face was square-jawed and strong, lit by laughing hazel eyes framed with long dark lashes. Light brown hair flecked with auburn brushed back from his forehead in a widow's peak and flopped into his eyes. Those eyes that so often gazed at her with the same adoring light she thought she had seen earlier that day.
Shaking her head to rid herself of that face, she gently shifted Harry into her arms and rose. Carrying him to his room, she smiled down at him. She placed him in his bed and tucked him in, kissing his forehead and brushing his hair away from his face.
She crossed the hall and climbed into her own bed with a silent prayer that memories leave her alone this night. But the look had reawaken feelings she had long thought buried, locked away in the back of her heart. As she buried her face in a fluffy scarlet pillow, she breathed a name unspoken for years.
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