A/N: And here is the last and final chapter of A Lioness. Thanks go out to AMP, Suburban House Elf, Kate, and of course J.K. Rowling. I can be contacted at email@example.com.
Disclaimer: This is not mine.
Chapter Two- Discussions
"Delubrum Minervae." The bolts in the lock clicked open as Minerva uttered the password, and she stepped into her personal quarters with a relieved sigh. Lee Jordan's comment had dispelled the somber atmosphere in the Gryffindor common room, and it had returned to normal in no time. Minerva had left soon after that. It had, after all, been a long and tiring day.
Conjuring herself a cup of tea, Minerva sat down in her favorite chair by the window. Her quarters consisted of three rooms—a bedroom, a bathroom, and the sitting room she was in now. The rooms were by no means opulent, but they weren't sparsely furnished either. Because she was the head of Gryffindor the predominant colors were red and gold, warm colors that were altogether pleasant to come home to. The sitting room in particular was filled with various trinkets and mementos of her time teaching. An entire display case was filled with figurines from the headmaster, who found it amusing to give her cat statuettes each Christmas. The most recent one closely resembled Minerva's Animagus form. A large painting of Hogwarts held pride of place over the fireplace, given to her by a former student years ago; it changed according to the season. Minerva gazed at the pleasant summer scene while she sipped her tea.
Now that her mind was no longer occupied with thinking of what to say to her Gryffindors, she found her thoughts returning to Harry Potter. She was disturbed by what she had seen of him in the Gryffindor common room. He had seemed dark and brooding, completely turned inward. He needed to see that pushing others away because of the prophecy would do more harm than good. Nor would blaming anyone accomplish anything, especially Albus, who blamed himself enough already for not telling Harry of the prophecy sooner. But the boy's godfather had just died, so he had reason to be angry and depressed. Minerva closed her eyes at that, once again thinking that Sirius needn't have died, if only she had been there when Harry had come looking for her the day of the attack.
But her tea was growing cold, and she was extremely tired, and she had sworn that she would stop blaming herself for something that she couldn't change. She was not to blame any more than Albus or Harry were; everything that had happened was Lord Voldemort's doing, and they all needed to remember that. Draining her cup, Minerva hauled herself to her feet and entered her bedroom, vanishing the tea things as she went. She changed into her nightgown and undid her trademark bun, braiding back her long black hair. She barely remembered to take the potions that Poppy Pomfrey had given her before climbing into her bed, which was looking more welcoming by the minute. Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort could wait until morning; she was going to sleep.
She rose later than usual Monday morning, undoubtedly because of the stress of the day before. Dressing hastily, Minerva only just remembered to take her potions before heading to the Great Hall. Breakfast was in full swing as she entered, and she had to reprimand several students for their boisterous behavior before she reached the High Table.
"Good morning, Professor Dumbledore," she said as she sat down in her usual chair to the headmaster's right. Serving herself breakfast, Minerva began to eat as he replied.
"And to you, as well," he said with a smile, eyes twinkling. "What are your plans for this morning, if I may ask?"
Pouring herself some tea, Minerva answered, "I intend to finish marking the fourth years' exams today. And I suppose I will venture into Umbridge's office before lunch," she finished reluctantly. She had been most displeased when she had seen Umbridge in the hospital wing the previous day; she would not have been at all unhappy had Albus left the woman in the Forbidden Forest with the centaurs. Minerva was not looking forward to sorting through Umbridge's belongings, but it had to be done.
"I apologize, but it is necessary," the headmaster said, echoing her thoughts. "Besides," he added with another smile, "I rather think you will enjoy finding items that might incriminate Dolores."
"I had not thought of the task in precisely that light," Minerva admitted, feeling a certain amount of vengeful glee at causing trouble for Umbridge. The former High Inquisitor's star at the Ministry had fallen quite rapidly after the attack in the Department of Mysteries, and a dubious item or two might be just the key to preventing it from rising ever again.
Chuckling at the look on her face, Albus asked, "And have you had an opportunity to tell Mr. Potter that his Quidditch ban has been revoked?" His smile faded as he glanced at Harry Potter, who was sitting at the Gryffindor table with Ginny Weasley and halfheartedly picking at his food.
"No, I have not. I shall speak with him later today—perhaps after lunch." Looking from the headmaster to Harry and back, Minerva wished she could do more to help them both. But if wishes were fish we would walk on the sea… She changed the subject abruptly. "However, I have spoken to Gryffindor House about the attack. It went well," she added when Albus gave her an inquiring look.
"Excellent." Finishing his breakfast, the headmaster stood. "I shall see you at lunch, then, Professor McGonagall," he said with a nod as he left.
After finishing breakfast, Minerva went to her office. She spent most of the morning in the familiar routine of grading papers. Many of the Hogwarts teachers abhorred marking, but she was not one of them. Minerva found it comforting to lose herself in the well-known intricacies of Transfiguration; her love for the subject had not diminished over the years. She and the headmaster had spent many an enjoyable evening debating some of the more obscure theories and principles. Besides, she felt an enormous sense of accomplishment when her pupils improved over the course of the year, as almost all of the fourth years had done.
But no good thing lasts forever, and so it was that Minerva set Ginny Weasley's paper atop the pile of marked exams about half an hour before lunch. She still had to go through Dolores Umbridge's things. Using her walking stick to stand—she was quickly growing to hate the thing—Minerva went up to the third floor. The door of the Defense Against the Dark Arts office was closed, but unlocked. Checking the hallways for onlookers, she entered the room, closing the door behind her. It wouldn't do for the Deputy Headmistress to be seen searching through the former High Inquisitor's possessions.
Looking up, an expression of disgust appeared on Minerva's face as she surveyed the room. It was, in a word, hideous. Every available surface had been covered in layers of lace. Several vases were filled with dry flowers; none of the arrangements matched. Each vase occupied its own doily. It was one of the walls, however, that made the room truly seem foul. There was a large collection of ornamental plates hanging there, each sporting a garishly bright kitten with a different bow around its neck. Minerva stared at the wall for a moment, repulsed. "A disgrace to felines everywhere!" she muttered, waving her wand. The plates flew off the wall and landed in a haphazard pile by the fireplace, thankfully out of sight.
Sitting at the desk, which was covered by an odious flowered tablecloth, Minerva spent the next fifteen minutes searching through Umbridge's belongings. In addition to the normal teaching materials, there was a large amount of correspondence from the Minister of Magic. Minerva skimmed through each letter; most were filled with Cornelius Fudge's customary bluster and pomposity. She put them away to read more closely later, along with copies of the various Educational Decrees. Those, perhaps, could be used for publicity purposes; she knew that many people would disapprove of the restrictions that Umbridge had placed upon Hogwarts. Minerva also found a small chest of potions. None were illegal, but most, especially the lesser truth potions, had almost certainly been used for negative purposes. There was an entire cabinet full of confiscated items, most of them innocuous, which also went into the pile of things to keep. They could be returned to their proper owners later (with the exception of a few things that had almost certainly belonged to the Weasley twins or Lee Jordan). It was the last thing she found, however, that turned Minerva's intense dislike of Dolores Umbridge into what could only be described as hatred.
The bottom drawer of the desk was empty apart from a bundle of parchment and a black quill. Minerva placed the quill on the desk, lifting out the papers with a frown. She had been teaching Harry Potter for five years and had graded enough of his essays to recognize that it was his handwriting that covered the sheets of parchment. Minerva glanced through all of them; they were all covered with "I must not tell lies." Undoubtedly Umbridge had made Harry do lines during his many detentions, though only Merlin knew why she had kept them.
But there was something odd about the ink that had been used. It was an unusual red-brown color, flaking off in some places. Minerva placed the papers on the desk and was about to dismiss them when her gaze fell on the quill that had been with them. She stood absolutely still as a horrible suspicion flashed through her mind. No. Surely even Umbridge would not have… Snatching up the black quill, Minerva peered at it closely. It was long and thin with an unusually sharp point. With a white-knuckled grip, she drew a line across the top of a sheet of parchment. She gasped in pain as a line of blood appeared on the parchment. The resulting cut on her hand faded to an angry red line, and Minerva stared at it, feeling ill.
It was a Blood Quill. Favored by Dark wizards, they had also been used by many of the old pure-blood families for the signing of oaths and other important documents. However, they had recently been declared illegal and the Ministry of Magic had confiscated almost all of them. It would have been easy for Dolores Umbridge to obtain one, assuming she hadn't had one already.
Minerva put the quill back on the desk, her hands trembling in anger. Dolores Umbridge had deliberately injured students—no. She had forced them to injure themselves, which was even worse. How many students had been affected? Harry Potter, certainly. Probably Lee Jordan as well—Minerva remembered him coming into Transfiguration with a bandage on his hand shortly after he had served detention with Umbridge. And there were quite possibly more students from other houses, for she was only told of detentions when the recipients were in her house. Realizing that she was shaking and that her hands were clenched into fists, Minerva closed her eyes and counted to ten. The anger faded to a bearable level, only to be replaced by guilt.
Why had she not seen? Students had been injuring themselves because of small transgressions and she had not even noticed. Recalling what she had said to Harry Potter, Minerva winced. "She is your teacher and has every right to give you detention." She remembered that she had even punished Harry further, taking points from Gryffindor when Umbridge had given him detention for the second time. Why had she not seen? Why had no one told her? She began to feel more angry again—at the students for not telling her, at herself for not noticing, and, especially, at Umbridge. Staring at the Blood Quill, Minerva almost wished that the toad-like woman were standing right in front of her.
The sound of students in the hallway outside told her that it was time for lunch. Casting Enlargement and Feather-Light charms on the bag she had brought, Minerva swept the papers on the desk, the potions, the confiscated items, and the quill into it and left the office. She headed towards her chambers to deposit the bag before going to lunch, still in a black mood. Students going downstairs scattered right and left as they saw the look on her face. So this is what it feels like to be Severus.
Upon reaching the Great Hall she sat down in her usual chair and served herself food with more force than was strictly necessary. She began to eat, thoughts of the Blood Quill filling her mind all the while. The dark expression on her face was sufficient to keep any of the staff from talking to her.
"Is something amiss?" a quiet voice asked her some time later. She had not noticed when the headmaster came in. By this time Minerva's anger had cooled somewhat, but her feeling of guilt had not diminished at all. She did not wish to discuss it with Albus, though, particularly not at the High Table in front of all the students and teachers.