“Serena, my dear. It is a pleasure to finally meet you.”
Engulfing her hand in his, he clasped his other hand on top and patted lightly.
Serena smiled at the welcoming wizard. “Thank you, Headmaster. It is nice to finally meet you as well.”
Pursing his lips, he cocked his head and tsked at her. “Call me Albus, please. We shall be getting to know each other quite well. There is no need for such formalities.”
He let go of her hand and gestured towards the chair on her right.
“Please, have a seat.”
She sat down and breathed a sigh of relief. She was physically exhausted from her journey and the fact that she had to carry her three bags. She was also mentally exhausted from sniping with Professor Snape for the last few moments of her trip. She was angry that she had allowed him to get under her skin and upset her so much.
Looking up, she saw that Dumbledore had taken a seat behind his desk and was now watching her with an amused expression on his face. Serena could have sworn that he was aware of what had transpired between her and Snape. Thankfully, he did not mention it.
“How was the journey from Andréa’s?” he asked conversationally.
“Very tiring,” she answered, a tight smile on her face. “I was wondering Headm…” She blushed at his reproving look. “I am sorry. I was wondering, Albus, when I would be able to start teaching. I am most anxious to begin.”
“All in good time, Serena. I think you should take the next few days to relax and then begin classes on Monday. That will give you plenty of time to meet the other staff members, talk to Professor Cannella, who has been teaching Defense for the past few months, and settle into your rooms.”
Serena ground her teeth. She couldn’t sit around for four days. She had to keep busy, especially during that time.
“I need to start sooner than that. Would it be possible to start on Friday?” She shifted in her seat, agitated.
Dumbledore stroked his beard and observed the anxiety in her face and body. Quietly he asked her, “Is there a reason you can’t wait until Monday?”
Serena looked around the room, seeking some refuge from the dangerous question. “I can’t just sit around. Not now.”
“May I ask why?”
She looked at Dumbledore, sadly amused. “I would have thought Headmaster Caron would have explained everything before I arrived.”
“Philippe did share his concerns with me, Serena. He seems to be under the impression that you are still blaming yourself for Thomas’ death.”
Serena closed her eyes, trying to push the invading memories away. She clutched the charm around her neck tightly in her fist. In a monotone voice, she repeated the words that had been conveyed to her by various members of her friends and family. “I know that I am not responsible for Thomas’ death. It was a tragic accident and it was most certainly not my fault.” She opened her eyes and found Dumbledore staring at her in concern.
“I am not sure you truly believe that, my dear.”
Smiling bitterly, she thought that she wouldn’t be able to put anything past this man. He was very different from Philippe. Philippe had never delved too deeply into her emotions. He was a hands-off type of headmaster, which suited her personality. Dumbledore seemed to be the exact opposite. Serena wasn’t sure how she would handle the change.
She sighed and then asked hopefully, “So, may I begin classes on Friday?”
Dumbledore watched her for a few moments. Shaking his head, he answered, “No, Serena. I think you should wait until Monday.” Holding up a hand as she opened her mouth to speak, he continued, “If you must remain busy, then I would suggest observing, and maybe assisting, another teacher. Things are a little different here than at Andréa’s. I want you to feel like you are a part of Hogwarts and just placing you into a classroom may alienate you from the rest of the staff.”
Serena slumped in her chair. “As you wish.”
“I understand from Philippe, that besides Defense, you were also an excellent Potions student. Perhaps you could assist our Potions Master for the next few days.”
Serena nodded, staring at the floor in dejection.
“Serena,” he said gently. She lifted up her head and gazed at him. “You are here for a reason. I needed you to fill this post. You were the only one I wanted.” He smiled encouragingly at her. She weakly mirrored his smile. “But, I need you to be here completely. I cannot have a professor living in the past. It would be dangerous to the students, the staff, and even to you.”
Serena knew that Dumbledore was speaking the truth. She had lived in the past for too long. She clutched at the charm once again and wondered if her heart could listen to the voice of reason that was sitting in front of her. Through her hazy thoughts, she realized that Dumbledore was speaking to her again. She squinted her eyes and tried to focus her tired and befuddled mind on the words.
“I understand that this particular time of the month is difficult for you.” He caught her gaze. “Is there anything that I can do to make it easier? Philippe mentioned something about night terrors.”
Serena shivered as images from those dreams flashed through her mind. “Yes. The Potions Master at Andréa’s created a special sleeping draught for me. It is not addictive and I can use it every month. I brought the ingredients and directions. If your Potions Master would be so kind as to let me borrow the lab for a while, I can produce enough to last me several months.”
Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. “I am afraid our Potions Master does not surrender his lab so easily. He will surely want to assist and learn more about this sleeping draught. He is very intelligent and is always creating new potions and remedies.”
“That is not a problem. I would enjoy discussing some other potions I have been using at Andréa’s as well. Perhaps that could be discussed over the next few days if he will allow me to observe his classes.”
Dumbledore hid his sudden grin. “I am glad that you are seeing things my way, Serena.”
Serena gave the headmaster a genuine smile and asked lightly, “Is there any other way that I could see it after this delightful talk?”
He shook his head and laughed. He was glad to see the melancholy had seemed to lift. Hearing a knock at the door, he said, “Come in.”
Minerva McGonagall swept into the room, a stern expression on her face. Upon seeing Serena, her features softened and she smiled. “Hello, I am Minerva McGonagall, Transfiguration Professor.”
Serena stood and offered her hand. “Serena Daniels. I will be teaching Defense. It is a pleasure to meet you.”
“I am glad you came in, Minerva. I have put Serena into the empty chambers next to yours. Would you kindly show her the way?”
Minerva nodded her head. “Of course, Albus. However, I need to speak to you later about a certain aggravating professor.”
Albus sighed, knowing exactly whom she was talking about. “I shall be here.” Turning his attention to Serena, he looked directly into her eyes. “Remember what we discussed, my dear. If you need to see me about anything, please feel free to come to my office. The password is ‘twinkle tarts’- one of my favorite desserts.”
Serena whispered the password to herself, trying to memorize it. She was unfamiliar with that particular dessert, but from the sound of it, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“Thank you for everything.” She followed Minerva to the doorway. Remembering that she did not know the name of the professor she would be assisting, she turned and faced the headmaster.
“Excuse me, Albus? I forgot to ask the name of the Potions Master.”
Dumbledore looked at her in surprise. “But, my dear, you already know him.”
Serena’s stomach churned. No, it couldn’t be, she thought. Life can’t be so cruel.
“Professor Severus Snape is our Potions Master.”
Serena nodded, her mouth twisted into a mocking smile. It seemed life was that cruel.