Hogwarts was a place that no longer let down its guard any time of day or night. The students slept secure in their dorms, while goblins and trolls patrolled the corridors in unending circuits. People in paintings snoozed and snored, or reminisced, or stargazed, or murmured quiet greetings or insults to the passing patrols. The goblins occasionally talked back in their own language, exchanging rude gestures with the ones who’d seen action in the goblin rebellions. The trolls lumbered on, ignoring them, their minds on their own trollish thoughts and conversations. From time to time, Peeves would put in an appearance and attempt to stir up trouble between all of the aforementioned parties. Most of the time, he succeeded marvelously, and Filch would come running to see what the commotion was all about. When the dragons arrived, things were bound to get even more interesting. Of that, Aurellia Deveroux had little doubt.
Yet for all this, Hogwarts was much quieter at night than in the daytime, Aurellia reflected. There were fewer distractions. At night she could better concentrate on her duty…
Not that that seemed to matter much anymore.
For Snape was beyond her reach, and Venator was lost, and although the insomnia continued, there were no longer any hints about Snape’s condition or whereabouts. So tonight, Aurellia had decided to go searching. Tonight, the elf’s light steps were consciously directed. The hope offered by Venator and the dreams seemed all but lost, yet Aurellia desperately hoped to rekindle it somehow. Perhaps Snape had stopped calling because she had not answered. Perhaps if she reached out tonight, she would find him. Perhaps he was still alive.
Aurellia’s first stop was Sinistra’s planetarium, and it was a bitter disappointment. When she arrived, the stars shown faintly in their normal positions, the Starlux globe dimmer than when she had last visited. Aurellia opted to leave things as they were, and seated herself cross-legged next to the luminous globe in the center of the room. In her hands, she clasped her necklace and her silvery wand. The wand pointed straight up in front of her face, glimmering in the starlight and scattering reflections of the twinkling stars onto her doll-like features. The golden chain of her necklace fell across her hand and dangled loosely.
“Eh perahsi," she murmured, and after several minutes of meditation in the intense silence, her wand began to glow and shimmer with a faint silvery light that reflected eerily off her face. In Druidish, Aurellia chanted,
Are you there?
Can you hear me?
Where are you?
Where are you?
Perhaps an hour passed. Aurellia repeated the call countless times, but there was no reply, no sense of his presence. The stars remained fixed in their normal courses, and the waning, post-full moon crawled its way past zenith on its way down to the horizon.
At last, Aurellia gave up. She let the locket drop from her hand and dangle from its chain around her neck as she got up stiff-legged from the floor and left the planetarium. The elf then lighted her wand with a mindcast Lumos, and she headed to her next destination, the alcove by the Ancient Runes classroom.
Aurellia found the painting with Musala Peak and the Rila Monastery easily enough, and again she seated herself cross-legged on the floor, facing the painting with wand and locket ready as before.
Aurellia repeated the Druidish summons several times, but gave up when a squabble erupted between the goblins and trolls who were patrolling the corridor that led to Ancient Runes. Merlin’s Bane, she thought crossly, even Professor Binns couldn’t concentrate with all that racket going on nearby!
Distaining to get involved in a dispute she couldn’t have cared less about, Aurellia quietly slipped a few Placidus spells on the most vocal members of both parties, then traipsed off down the corridor pondering the shortest route from here to the dungeons.
The dungeons felt as gloomy and as oppressive as ever, Aurellia reflected bleakly, only now there was no longer Snape’s brooding presence to blame it on. How much of the chill darkness and grimness of these subterranean corridors had he absorbed? Had living in such surroundings merely enhanced already dominant character traits? Would he have been a different person had he lived somewhere else for the last sixteen years? Somewhere warmer, brighter, cheerier? Yet Snape was half-vampire, and as such, he seemed to view things differently than humans and high elves. He disliked sunlight and fireplaces and flowers, and he had tolerated the company of his co-workers with a certain amount of reluctance which Aurellia could not quite understand. At times, he seemed to like living underground, and actually took pride in his cold, dank, austere domain. And yet, there were other times when he seemed…dissatisfied, as though he wanted something more but didn’t know how to define it. Perhaps this dissatisfaction was the result of the ongoing conflict between the two opposing sides of his heritage. Or perhaps, as Dumbledore had suggested, it was her arrival at Hogwarts that had brought some new illumination, like a shaft of sunlight, to Hades’ dark domain.
Aurellia shook her head and focused her thoughts on the present, on finding Snape.
“Nox! Prareh Uburet!” she whispered, pointing her wand toward the wall beside the locked door of the Potions classroom. Holding her wand upright before her, Aurellia slipped through the wall into the room, relit her wand, and looked around.
“Snape?” she whispered.
But the only answer she received was a cold, oppressive silence.
The room had not changed all that much, at a cursory glance. The desks and work stations occupied the same spots. The same canning jars, beakers, vials, and test-tube racks occupied the same shelves and cabinets. There was still an unpleasant odor in the air, and it smelled even fouler than the one Aurellia had encountered the last time she had visited this room after curfew. Perhaps it had something to do with the burn marks on the floor and ceiling?
Yes, superficially, this was still the same Potions classroom, but it was no longer Snape’s Potions classroom. For one thing the dust-bunnies and cobwebs in the nooks and crannies of the room were gone. There was no more chalk dust on the floor beneath the chalkboard, and the students’ work stations gleamed. Unlike the more territorial Snape, Karkaroff freely allowed house-elves into his rooms and gave them his permission—no, his orders—to clean everything that wasn’t sealed with a lid, lock, or cork.
And for another, Snape’s aura was fainter now, like Lupin’s and Crouch’s were in the Defense classroom. This was now unmistakably Professor Karkaroff’s turf. His fear lay thick and palpable like invisible cobwebs upon every surface. It echoed from every stone, like an ongoing shriek, inaudible yet easily detectable by an elven sense that went beyond human hearing. It grated on Aurellia’s nerves. It was irritating, overwhelming, unnerving, despicable. And yet…
It was understandable. For Igor Karkaroff’s awkward position at Hogwarts was truly unenviable. Aurellia could sympathize, at least in that respect, having herself received a less than warm and enthusiastic welcome at the beginning of the school year. And Karkaroff had as much to fear from the outside as the instructor before him. For Snape’s enemies were his enemies, and Snape’s fate could easily be his fate as well. Karkaroff did not put much trust in Dumbledore’s power or the defense charms of Hogwarts to keep him safe, and yet he had nowhere else to turn.
Thus fear and desperation had replaced smoldering anger and resentment as the dominant emotional residue in this room. This was not to say that Snape had not had the same fears, Aurellia reflected sourly, merely that Karkaroff managed them less capably, lived with them less comfortably. Karkaroff was not as self-confident as Snape had been…or at least, had seemed to be. Perhaps Igor’s brief sojourn in Azkaban was the reason. Or perhaps the differences in their circumstances were to blame. Snape had been a knowledgeable instructor, his talents and habits well-suited to the subject of his teaching. He had been a well-established, sixteen-year fixture and figure of authority in familiar surroundings. Karkaroff, by contrast, was newly-arrived to foreign surroundings, forced to speak a second language on a daily basis, obliged to teach a subject about which he knew very little, and required to take up the duties of his predecessor by necessity, not choice. Furthermore, he had gone from a lofty, dictatorial position at his own Durmstrang Institute…to one of considerably less authority. As Acting Slytherin head of house, he had considerable power over a quarter of the school’s students, but he was now subordinate to the Hogwarts headmaster, and to the more democratic proceedings of the Hogwarts faculty.
Such changes in one’s life couldn’t be easy for anyone to accept, particularly someone of Karkaroff’s age, Aurellia thought sympathetically. Her own first couple of months at Hogwarts had been rather difficult and frustrating at times. And before that, there had been the intense training at the Alee. Not to mention, if one counted the trials of childhood, the flight from the village, the ordeal of the orphanage, and her subsequent adoption by the Deverouxs.
Nevertheless, Aurellia felt that Karkaroff was slippery and distasteful in a way that Snape had not been. Perhaps it was the fact that he had betrayed his own friends in order to get out of Azkaban. Or perhaps it was the way false compliments and flattery dripped from his venomous tongue around Aurellia and Dumbledore, and other people he wished to impress, while towards the students he seemed to show nothing but apathy and contempt. He seemed the sort who would do anything, say anything, promise anything in order to get what he wanted. And right now, more than anything else, Karkaroff wanted security.
How pathetic, Aurellia thought with a distasteful scowl. Then again, she hadn’t thought much of Snape at first, either. Perhaps once he had settled in, once he felt more secure in his surroundings, new sides of Karkaroff’s character would emerge. Perhaps he would begin to see beyond his own self-interest and pride. Perhaps, in time, he would be accepted by the students and other teachers, and he would be able to leave his murky past behind.
But right now, Karkaroff’s aura gave Aurellia the distinct impression that if any new sides of his character presented themselves, they were likely to be as disagreeable as the ones she’d already seen.
Aurellia walked over to the teacher’s desk, ran a finger lightly along the grains of its smooth, polished wooden surface, and marveled at the lack of ink spots, specks of sealing wax, and dribbles of candle wax to which she had become accustomed. Granted, Snape had known how to cast the Scourgify spell, and had probably used it from time to time when the untidiness began to interfere with his work. Yet, to see the desk this spotless made Aurellia’s heart sink. For some reason, it was the most striking sign she had thus far encountered that Snape was truly gone, perhaps forever.
Now more thoroughly discouraged than ever before, Aurellia raised her wand and approached the wall that separated the classroom from the office.
“Nox! Prareh Uburet! Lumos!”
In the silvery light of her wand, Aurellia looked around in dismay. Where were all the bottles, beakers, vials, canning jars, books, student papers, and hand-written notes that used to line every shelf, cupboard, and vertical surface, including, more often than not, the space between the bottom of Venator’s cage and the top of the filing cabinet, and half to three-quarters of the desk? Where was the large metal stand with all the huge flip-over diagrams of frog, snake, and lizard innards, most of which bore the telltale marks of Snape’s own hand-written notations and improvements? Where were Snape’s sparse personal touches such as the black hourglass with its striking green sand, and the fine raven-feather quill with its matching silver snake-head holder and inkwell?
Aurellia groaned. “Oh, Snape, if you could see this, you’d be having canaries right now!” she exclaimed.
Like the classroom, the Potions office was beginning to bear the definitive marks of Karkaroff’s occupancy. Namely, tidiness, organization, and an apparent lack of interest in the subject he’d been hired to teach, along with an overwhelming sense of fear, mistrust, and dissatisfaction. Symbols of his newly-acquired position of authority and renewed income were everywhere, from the sleek, silver-and-green outdoor cloak hanging from the peg of a brand-new coat-rack, to the freshly engraved silver-and-black nameplate on the desk which read, in two lines, “Prof. Igor Karkaroff,” in large bold letters, and underneath, “Head of House Slytherin,” in a smaller, italicized font.
“Doesn’t waste any time putting on his airs, does he?” Aurellia murmured to herself in distaste as she shook her head.
By this time the elf held out little hope of making any sort of connection here, in a place that was no longer Snape’s domain. Yet, in spite of all appearances, a room did not quickly or easily forget a master it had had for sixteen years.
“The last time I came into this room, I heard your voice,” Aurellia whispered into the darkened office. “You called to me, and I walked out because I was angry.
“I’m sorry. Snape, I’m sorry.”
Aurellia then switched to Druidish, and she thumbed the blue stone of her guardian charm with her left hand as she said:
Are you there?
Can you hear me?
“Answer me, Snape!” Aurellia cried in desperation. “Why won’t you answer me?”
Silence. The locket remained ice-cold in her hand.
“You’re not dead! You can’t be dead! I refuse to believe it! I…”
Aurellia broke off suddenly at the sound of swift, angry footfalls in the corridor beyond the walls of the classroom and office. A key rattled in the lock of the office door, and a voice on the other side grumbled angrily in fluent Bulgarian.
Uh oh, Aurellia thought, quickly dousing the light from her wand. My uninvited presence here is going to be a little difficult to explain.
Aurellia mind-cast the Walk-Walking spell and retreated through the wall into the Potions classroom, just as the door opened and Karkaroff stepped into his office. The elf then quickly and quietly crossed the room to the wall which separated it from the hallway outside. While the rest of her was still inside the wall, Aurellia poked the top of her head out and threw a quick glance down the hallway in both directions.
None of the pa-trolls were coming to check out the disturbance, nor Filch, nor Mrs. Norris. Even the ghosts were nowhere to be seen. How odd, Aurellia mused silently, as she made her escape completely unobserved. If her intrusion into the office had set off some sort of alarm, which, in retrospect, she should have been prepared for, then why wasn’t security here on the double? Or at least a curious specter or two?
Weary with grief and bitter disappointment, Aurellia returned to bed sometime between one and two in the morning. But sleep would not come.
How could she rest when Venator’s terrified thoughts and shrieks came back to her every time she closed her eyes? When giant snakes, and white-masked killers, and flaming forests haunted her nightmares, and she awoke in the middle of the night screaming and bathed in sweat? And how could she sleep when Snape was out there somewhere being tortured, or maybe…maybe killed?
How could she give up so easily? But what else could she do?
I know, I will renew the Vow anyway, Aurellia thought. Even if there is little hope that it will make a difference. It is all I have left.
The elf knelt in front of the fireplace in her quarters, locket and wand in hand. Brilliant blue flames danced beneath the mantel and their reflection flickered in Aurellia’s silvery wand. “Eh perahsi," she whispered, “Suyalaht.”
The rest of the spell she chanted in Druidish, in a soft melancholy tone.
I vowed to Watch over you
I vowed to defend you from the Ancient Darkness
And I failed
For I fell into Darkness myself
In ignorance unknowing, in blindness unseeing, in bitterness unfeeling
I forgot my promise, broke my vow
I lost my way, and abandoned you
Left you all alone in the night
For I fell into Darkness myself
Night after night you called to me
But I plugged my ears and would not listen
You came to me in paintings, in dreams and visions
But I closed my eyes and would not see
For I fell into Darkness myself
Then I remembered the promise I had made
And the pain you had endured
And I forgave you, but I cannot forgive myself
For I lost my way and abandoned you
Left you all alone in the night
And only Darkness lies between us
Are you there?
Can you hear me?
Will you forgive me?
I look for you, but I cannot find you
I listen for you, but you no longer call
And the sun is setting, and the night is falling
And I’ve almost forgotten the sound of your voice
And Darkness lies between us
But this I vow, until one of us should perish
I will Watch until my eyes grow weary
I will call until my voice is wrecked
I will search until every stone has been overturned
I will never abandon you again
And if in Darkness you are forever lost
I will weep until every tear is spent
Where are you?
Where are you?
Why do you no longer answer?
There was more, much more the elf wanted to say, but the rest of the spell dissolved into tears, and the light in her wand and locket dimmed and died.
And Aurellia Deveroux spent the next three hours in front of the fireplace, weeping.
The next morning, Aurellia approached her office to get some notes for her first class, which was Gryffindor NEWT-level Defense Against the Dark Arts. She was already ten minutes late to class, but time seemed to be behaving strangely this morning, as though it were flowing all around her, but hardly touching her. She passed a couple of late students hurrying down the hallway past her, but she barely registered their presence, completely ignoring their pointed stares, the hushed comments. She didn't even realize that she had started singing the Richard Marx song she had been listening to in her quarters a few minutes ago. Or was it hours? Time seemed funny this morning...
"I had a dream that you stood right in front of me," she sang softly as she headed mechanically to her office. Her voice was barely above a whisper. "And called to me in black and white..."
The students stopped and looked back at her with concerned expressions on their faces, but she did not even register their presence.
"Professor Deveroux, sorry we're so late, is our class cancelled today?" Angelina Johnson called out. "Professor?"
Deveroux didn't reply.
"I could see you, I couldn't reach you," she continued singing. "You faded into the night..."
"Professor, what about our class?" Angelina tried again in a worried tone.
"Swear I could see your face…" Deveroux continued.
Katie Bell approached and touched Deveroux on the arm, but the Defense teacher didn't respond.
"Hear me calling you, calling you...but you just don't...you just don't seem to answer anymore," she continued to sing in a shaky voice.
"Professor?" Katie asked. "Are you all right?"
"You don't seem to answer anymore..."
"Maybe we should get Professor McGonagall,” Angelina whispered. "She's not right."
Deveroux wasn’t even aware of their departure.
"You just...don't seem to answer anymore," she whispered, and her voice cracked. She went to her office door and opened it.
And saw the flowers.
Dumbledore was startled out of his thoughts by the familiar sight (although not seen for some months) of Professor McGonagall dragging the Weasley twins into his office by their ears.
"You will not believe what they just did!" McGonagall snapped. "After you had warned them earlier!"
"We didn't mean any harm," Fred gulped. "We were only..."
McGonagall interrupted. "Professor Deveroux found these!" Here she let go of the students' ears and tossed a small bouquet of red and pink roses on the headmaster's desk. "In her office this morning."
Dumbledore glared at the twins, who had straightened up and were massaging their ears.
"What is the meaning of this?" he demanded angrily. "After I told you, on pain of expulsion, that I would tolerate no more of your pranks!"
"We only wanted to make her laugh!" George protested. "We showed her these before, when we were working on the fly project, and she laughed at the gag for what seemed like forever. We didn't know she'd burst out bawling like that!"
"We really didn't mean any harm," Fred added sheepishly, as he tentatively reached for the bouquet. "Look, we even made these special, with less water, so her things wouldn't get too wet." He demonstrated, and Dumbledore noted that the flowers indeed looked more like a small, harmless fountain, as opposed to the typical, torrential rush of water.
"And we know how much she likes flowers, or…or at least, she used to. Hers are in a bit of a state," George said.
Fred nodded and added, "We've all been worried about her. She hasn't been the same since that gre...ummm...since Snape left."
Dumbledore's icy expression softened considerably. "Hmm....I am inclined to believe your explanation, despite your reputations. I think that you two honestly meant well, this time. You may go, and you can take the flowers with you. There will be no disciplinary action taken. Only I would advise you two not to try to cheer anyone else up for the remainder of your stay here."
"I'm..." McGonagall started to say, but the words seemed to catch in her throat. "I agree with the headmaster," she finally said, as she put a hand to her lips.
"Thank you, headmaster, professor. We're very sorry we upset her," Fred said sadly as he clutched the still-watering flowers. "I just wish we had succeeded in cheering her up."
"So do I," Dumbledore mused softly. "So do I."
The boys left, and McGonagall and Dumbledore exchanged looks.
"I feel bad now," McGonagall said. "But when Miss Johnson and Miss Bell came to me, and asked me to check on Miss Deveroux, I assumed the worst. Do you know, I never thought I would say this, but I miss those twins getting into trouble and pulling pranks all the time. It doesn't seem normal to have them so quiet, so subdued. If it weren't for Aurellia's reaction to their prank, I probably would have laughed myself before hauling them in here for their insubordination."
"Nothing is normal anymore," Dumbledore said quietly. "Would you mind looking in on Aurellia again?"
"Of course," McGonagall said, and she walked out of the room. "She's still in her office, I left her with Miss Johnson and Miss Bell. I'll go immediately.”
McGonagall knocked on the Defense teacher's door. "Aurellia?" She heard a stifled moan, and tentatively opened the door.
“Professor! Come in, quickly!” came the panicked voice of Johnson. “We can’t…we can’t calm her down! She acts like we aren’t even here!” Then McGonagall heard sounds of sobbing from the Defense teacher.
The Transfiguration professor threw open the door and paled at what she saw.
Deveroux sat in her chair, her eyes glassy, her expression blank, and she was rocking back and forth, her arms around her shoulders, muttering to herself. Bell and Johnson stood nearby, looks of pure horror on their faces.
Oh no, McGonagall thought, alarmed. She shut and locked the door quickly and ran over to the elf, who looked up at McGonagall with a haunted, empty look.
"Aurellia?" McGonagall whispered in horror.
"He hated flowers," Deveroux whispered, still rocking back and forth. "He hated them, and I hurt him...I hurt him. I laughed at him...then I drove him away. I failed him. I rejected him. He's gone now. If he ever returns, he'll be just like Luk. He said so, himself...just like my cousin Luk...he's dead too...Why couldn’t I stop him? It's my fault...my fault...and Snape's desk...there are no more flowers...no more flowers now...and it's my fault. Istiano, neh cuenartolah remii, remii fa'dahnlo...Istiano, neh cuenartolah...sien, sien mahlota sien. Remii...remii..."
“She’s been like this ever since you left,” Bell said, tears streaming down her face.
“We can’t get through to her,” Johnson added, her voice shaking. “It’s like she doesn’t even see us.”
“Professor, do you think someone put a curse on her?” Bell wondered.
“I don’t know. Go to her classroom and tell the other students that her classes are cancelled today,” McGonagall said, trying to keep her voice steady. “There is nothing more you can do here. I’m afraid this is a matter for Madam Pomfrey to attend to, not students.”
The girls left quickly, but not before casting another sorrowful look at the Defense teacher, who continued to babble in seemingly nonsense syllables.
McGonagall backed away and went to Deveroux's fireplace. She reached for a jar on the mantle, poured the fine, powdery sand into her palm, and ignited Deveroux's cold fireplace.
"Professor Dumbledore! Albus! Come quickly!" she said into the flames.
Professor Dumbledore nearly knocked McGonagall over as he emerged rapidly from the fireplace. He brushed the ashes from his robes and turned to look at Deveroux, who was still rocking in her chair, muttering in a strange language. Druid, perhaps? Dumbledore used to know some words of the language, yet he hadn't heard it spoken in perhaps twenty years, and he had never been fluent.
The headmaster shook his head in dismay at the site.
"I should have seen this coming," Dumbledore whispered. "First her cousin’s death, then coming here, then learning about her brother’s murder, then Severus leaving. She’s had a great deal to cope with in less then a year's time, and elves do not do well under so much stress…"
"Cousin? What happened to her cousin?" McGonagall asked. "She...never talks about her life before she came here. In fact, I believe the only ones she ever confided in were you, Remus...and Severus."
"It is a sad story," Dumbledore said. "He died, two months before she came here. Remember the young man from the Ministry who was to come here and teach the Defense Against the Dark Arts classes? Well, that was her cousin, Luk Deveroux. He called himself Luk Efcuerga at the Ministry. Efcuerga, or Elfsword, his elven surname. Aurellia has told me that Luk ran afoul of Voldemort somehow, and fell under his power. Severus believed that the lad had become impatient with the Ministry’s course of inaction, and had taken it into his head that he would challenge the Dark Lord to a duel.”
McGonagall gasped and shook her head in disbelief as the older wizard continued.
“Luk hoped to either defeat Voldemort, or to at least bring back evidence of his return, but unfortunately, he tragically overestimated his own abilities…and underestimated those of his enemy. Some time later, Luk came to their home one day while Aurellia was having lunch. He attempted to kill her, and very nearly succeeded, then he turned his wand on himself. This was when Remus happened to be in the neighborhood for lunch. Remus told me that if his timing had been less impeccable, Aurellia would surely have died as well."
The Deputy Headmistress put a hand over her mouth in horror.
"What a terrible tragedy! She has never told me any of this, nor any other faculty members, that I am aware of. Oh, Albus, what are we to do?" whispered McGonagall, who was still staring at the elf.
"Unfortunately, for all our formidable skills, there are no charms, no potions that can mend a broken heart," Dumbledore said softly. "The only remedy we can offer are Memory Charms, but as you know, those have grave consequences if overused. For now, I think the best thing we can do for her, is to get her back to her quarters, and give her some time to recover. Will you take her back up to her room? I will fetch Madam Pomfrey; perhaps she can spare an assistant to watch her until I can return.
"I’ll make an announcement at lunchtime and put up a notice that her classes are cancelled for the remainder of the day," Dumbledore continued. "Fortunately, she doesn’t have any workshops scheduled for this weekend. If she hasn’t recovered by Monday...well, we'll see what happens through the weekend. I think I’ll send an owl to Remus, and ask him to come as quickly as he can. I think he, more than anyone else, can help her right now."
Dumbledore walked rapidly out of the office towards the medical wing, while McGonagall picked up Deveroux's cloak and draped it over the younger professor's shoulders.
"Come on, dear," McGonagall whispered as she grasped Deveroux by the shoulders and practically lifted the elf to her feet. Deveroux stood up, unblinking, and let the older witch lead her out of the office, still murmuring in a strange babble McGonagall didn't understand.
“Istiano, neh cuenartolah...sien, sien mahlota sien. Remii...remii...”
As they walked out the door, McGonagall caught sight of Karkaroff at the other end of the hallway, watching them with an expression of keen interest. Didn’t he have a class to tend to right now? But before McGonagall could question him, he turned heel and went the other way. That one was going to cause more problems than Peeves before he got himself disgraced and chucked out, McGonagall thought acidly. Sometimes Dumbledore granted second and third chances too freely, in her opinion. But she was not one to question the headmaster. He had his reasons…unfathomable though they may be at times.
The Deputy Headmistress and her charge passed a few students, who stared at the two with expressions of sadness and shock. Otherwise, the halls were mostly empty, morning classes already several minutes underway. Fortunately, her current class was fifth-year Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs, and they could be trusted to occupy themselves in profitable, studious activities until McGonagall arrived…provided, of course, that the ubiquitous Dark Cauldron cards stayed in their folders and bookbags. McGonagall tsked at the thought of card-trading going on in the classroom without her presence to put a stop to it, and sped up. The longer she was away, the more likely the students were to take advantage of her absence!
“Come along now, Aurellia,” she ordered softly. “Keep pace.” But Aurellia’s obliviousness reminded the elderly witch that there were worse things in life than disruptive card-games and disobedient students.
Perhaps there was something to the students' rumors that the Defense Against the Dark Arts position was jinxed, McGonagall thought darkly. It certainly looked as though the school may very well lose two Defense teachers in one year...if one counted Luk Deveroux, who hadn't even lived long enough to formally accept the position.
End of Chapter 48
Note: Lyrics from “Calling You” by Richard Marx, ©1987 Capitol Records.