Harry Potter - Series Fan Fiction ❯ Harry Potter and the Werewolf Prophecy ❯ HOUSES UNITED ( Chapter 8 )
Harry waited for a reaction from Professor McGonagall, but she merely sipped her firewhiskey and nodded.
“Aren’t you surprised, Professor?” he asked, bewildered.
She placed her glass on her desk and reached into the drawer. “No, Potter, because a little over a week ago, I received this note by owl.”
She pulled out a small scroll of paper, almost the same size as Harry’s, and began to read.
“’It is my earnest hope that this letter will be received by my old friend Minerva McGonagall, but if sadly she is, by reason of death, disability, dementia or dismissal not the headmistress, I ask that whoever is currently filling that position should comply with the following request.’”
The Professor paused and took a tiny sip from her glass. “Please arrange for the Hogwarts Express to be waiting at Kings Cross on the morning of…’ – today’s date, Potter, timed for when you received your message - ‘to deliver Harry Potter to Hogwarts. When he has arrived and is comfortably settled, please bring him to the headmaster’s study, and leave him there alone, opposite my portrait. When he returns, please follow his instructions as if they were my own.’ Signed in identical fashion.”
“I suppose… is that Dumbledore’s signature? Can we be sure?” asked Harry, anxiously.
“I performed several simple charms, and it seems authentic enough. However – Dumbledore was a very subtle man, Potter. He did not share everything with you – and nor did he share everything with me. Did you ever wonder why I was barely active in the Order of the Phoenix?”
Harry nodded. “I never asked him, but…”
“Nor did I. He would have made a joke. He would not have told me why, and he would not have changed his mind. He clearly wished me to remain at Hogwarts, concentrating my efforts on the school and its pupils, so that is what I did.”
She sighed. “I still do not understand much of what Professor Dumbledore did, Potter, but I do know that he always had a deep reason for it. He had plans within plans, designed to deal with every eventuality. He was perfectly capable, in those last days, when he was dying, of sending these messages, timed to arrive when he wished.”
Harry gave a little gasp, something close to a sob. “I know he’s dead. I know better than anyone that he’s dead. I still – I just need him not to be.”
McGonagall patted his arm. “Believe me, Potter, I do too. Although… well, never mind.”
“What?” asked Harry. “Say it. I know he wasn’t perfect, Professor. I’ve been very angry with him, many times.”
McGonagall nodded, and took a gulp from her glass. “Dumbledore was a great man. He was a great headmaster. But… he was never that involved in the day to day running of this school. He could have been Minister for Magic, or, indeed, anything he wanted. He was by far the best of us. He chose this place, this job – my job, now – as the place where he could do the most important work. I’m afraid that the work didn’t involve planning timetables or enforcing discipline. That was left to the heads of houses, and individual teachers.”
She shook her head. “Do you know, I think I have less work now as headmistress than I did when I was teaching, and running Gryffindor, and…” she tailed off.
“When you were running the school for Professor Dumbledore,” finished Harry, grinning.
McGonagall blushed – perhaps the first time in his life that Harry had seen it happen. “Well… yes. And when I make a decision about how we’re going to do things…”
“You know it won’t be countermanded because Dumbledore has some scheme in mind,” Harry continued, laughing.
McGonagall smiled. “All the same, I miss him terribly. I know that there will be huge decisions to be made, that will affect the whole wizard world – and I will have to make them, and I don’t have a quarter of his wisdom and knowledge.”
Harry felt a surge of affection for the elderly woman who had looked after him at Hogwarts for so many years. “I’ve a feeling that you’re the ideal person to be in charge right now, Professor. It’s been hard, hasn’t it?”
“Oh, Potter, it’s been very hard, very hard indeed. The school was open for this last year, but barely. The destruction was terrible, and to lose the lives of pupils... so many of them… I offered my resignation of course, but the governors insisted that we had to keep open. I told the parents that I would fully understand if they wished for their children to stay away for a while. I think for most of the first term we had barely a third of normal attendance. Certainly, very few of the new first years turned up. Then, gradually, people trickled back, and we were about half the normal complement by the end of the year. It simply wasn’t possible to hold the OWLs and NEWTs.”
Harry pondered to himself. He had shut himself away from the great work of rebuilding that had been going on in the wizarding world. So much suffering and destruction. He’d felt that when Voldemort died, it was the end of the adventure, but of course, for many people, it was the start.
McGonagall was still speaking and he forced himself to pay attention. “So, I decided that it was an ideal time – while the school was in transition – to make some changes.”
Harry’s ears pricked up. “Changes? What changes?” Suddenly he felt afraid – as if the one place he thought he could rely on was being swept away, replaced with something new and strange.
McGonagall pursed her lips. “Well, firstly, I want to end the house system.”
Harry stared at her, aghast. “Professor – you can’t! Gryffindor – all the best of us come from Gryffindor.”
She wagged a forefinger at him. “What about Slytherin, Potter? Don’t tell me that you think that’s healthy. Ravenclaw students leaving and, well, disappearing, to do abstract research and self-obsessed counting how many elves can fit on a broomstick. Those sad, disappointed faces from all the boys and girls who ended up in Hufflepuff. No, Potter, so much of what went wrong with our world started right here in Hogwarts, where instead of trying to unite we foster enmity and division.”
“But Professor – Gryffindor! You can’t… I mean, you mustn’t…” Harry wailed.
“Calm yourself, Potter,” said McGonagall, shaking her head. “I said what I wanted, not what’s going to actually happen. This is a process that will take some years to bed in. The Sorting Hat has been told to give priority to the student’s wishes above all else. That whole business of Slytherin hiding in the cellars to learn God knows what – well, that’s over. They all do the same classes, together, and then in later years they choose for themselves what they’d like to specialise in. They’ll keep their dormitories and common rooms, but I plan to move on that in a while.”
“I suppose that if Slytherin is cleaned up then it might be worth it,” said Harry slowly. “The Quidditch Cup though – that’s still going on isn’t it?”
“Oh, heavens, yes! There are some traditions in Hogwarts that we really must stick with. The students can have a healthy rivalry, between friends, instead of feuding and conspiracy.”
Harry frowned. “All those pure-blood families who used to send their children so they’d be in Slytherin – what will they do now? Won’t they just go… somewhere else?”
“Ah, well, you might have been right a while ago, Potter. With the likes of Lucius Malfoy on the board of governors, we wouldn’t have been allowed to take such a step. It’s all different now, though. The old families are falling over themselves to claim that they don’t care who’s pure-blood, and ‘Some of my best friends are Muggles’. That old snobbery is unfashionable now – maybe not forever, but for a while. I want to keep the momentum going. I don’t think Slytherin will change that quickly, though. The older families – well, they’ll want their children in their old house, and I can’t imagine many Muggle-borns choosing to go to Slytherin, at least at first.”
The Professor raised her glass, but it was empty. She looked at the bottle for a moment, then turned back to Harry. “If the children are brought up together as friends, then they won’t be as quick to turn on each other later. Keep this to yourself, mind, Potter. I don’t want a Rita Skeeter article appearing about this for the time being. I’ve been trying to talk the Sorting Hat around. Do you remember the song when that awful Umbridge woman came here? He was all for reconciliation then, bringing the houses together, but now it’s happening he’s turned against it.”
“I hope it works, Professor. I always felt… well, Ron and Hermione…”
McGonagall nodded. “Miss Granger was possibly an entirely typical Ravenclaw. The Weasleys were pure Hufflepuff, but their sheer guts put them into Gryffindor. Except for possibly Charlie. Oh, to see Charlie Weasley block the snitch. You were the best I ever saw at catching it, Potter, but Charlie once held up a game for four hours when Gryffindor were losing by two hundred points, and in the end the other team – Hufflepuff I think it was – just let us score the points so they could go to bed.”
She’s gotten old, thought Harry. She’d like to talk to me all night. But even as he thought it, McGonagall pulled herself to her feet. “Bless my soul, I seem to be rambling. Potter, you look quite done in. Would you like to get to bed now, and …”
“No!” said Harry quickly. “I mean… that’s very kind of you, Professor, but if I don’t find out what Dumbledore wanted – I won’t sleep tonight in any case.”
McGonagall nodded. “Very well, Potter. I’ll bring you there.”
“I, er, know the way, Professor. You don’t need…”
“I don’t think you do,” said McGonagall. “You know how you used to get there. There was a lot of damage to the staircases. We’ve had to open up a number of secret passages. We still have a lot of trouble getting around, and there are parts of the castle that are still quite unsafe.”
“I suppose that the structure was seriously damaged,” said Harry.
“There was plenty of damage, but that was easily dealt with,” said McGonagall. “That’s not the problem. We have enough magical firepower to repair bricks and mortar, but there were many creatures and artefacts hidden away in Hogwarts, and there was a lot of magic being hurled around during the battle. Some things got loose that are proving quite tricky to get back, and we have to keep them isolated. Still, the way to the Headmaster’s study is safe enough. Follow me.”