Chapter Thirty-Five

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2 July 1978

The door to Minerva's quarters banged open, and she swept through, dropping her bag on the table as she made a beeline for the liquor cabinet to pour herself two fingers of Cardhu. But she couldn't enjoy it; she was still too angry.

She'd kept her temper in check all afternoon, but now it threatened to erupt full force and needed an outlet. She yanked her wand out of its pocket to point it at one of the cushions on her settee. It exploded in a riot of feathers, their indolent fluttering only stoking Minerva's ire. She Transfigured them into needles that hovered in the air, and imagined them pricking Sirius bloody Black until he screamed.

Her fury was stemmed by the image but not scotched.

I can go one better.

She Transfigured the crimson velvet of the other cushion into a reasonable approximation of Black's too-handsome face, then sent the needles hurtling through the air to embed themselves in the cushion-cum-portrait. Black's fuzzy smirk changed to a silent scream of horror.

The effort involved in the magic she'd just performed served its purpose, and she felt calm enough to have her drink.

Those idiots!

Hadn't Albus's instructions been clear? Of course they had. But as usual, Black and Potter ignored the agreed-upon parameters of the job and broke into the house instead of simply watching it. Bad enough that they'd thus managed to alert the Death Eaters that the Order knew about their latest meeting place, but the dunderheads had also made a typical spectacle of their stupidity and put a pair of Muggle policemen in danger for good measure!

It had taken Minerva all of yesterday and the better part of today to persuade the Ministry not to charge Black and Potter with breaching the International Statute. Albus probably could have sorted it in a few hours, but Minerva was not Albus Dumbledore. She'd been tempted to allow them to warm their cockles with the Dementors in Azkaban until Albus returned from wherever he'd gone, but she didn't know how long that would be, and now that the ranks of the enemy had grown so alarmingly, the Order needed more witches and wizards with quick wands. Even arrogant louts like Sirius Black and James Potter.

And those shirts!

She was supposed to have met Malcolm at her parents' home for an early lunch, then gone on to London with him for matinee of Much Ado About Nothing at the Aldwych. Instead, she'd sat for three hours in an MLE interrogation room, dodging Barty Crouch's questions about the significance of the golden phoenix emblem those two overgrown children had charmed onto their shirts. What part of "secret organisation" did they not understand?

For them, this war was another game, an excuse for them to put off growing up in favour of behaving like spoilt children they'd been at school. If Lupin had been with them, this latest stunt never would have happened, but as luck would have it, yesterday had been the full moon. Remus was a dose of just what Black and Potter needed, but why he put up with them was an enduring mystery. They clearly didn't give a hang about him, except as the brains of their trio. Had Black even thought once about what it would have meant for their friend had that little sixth-year prank succeeded and Remus had injured or even killed the Snape boy? Of course not. Thank Merlin James had stopped it at the last moment. Too bad he hadn't shown the same good sense yesterday.

Minerva was writing up a report for Albus on the incident when there was a knock at her door. It wasn't the Headmaster; she would have felt the shift in the castle's wards. The only other person in residence at Hogwarts over the summer was Hagrid, and he never came to her quarters.

Alastor's harangues about safety buzzed in her head, and she drew her wand.

"Who is it?"

"It's Malcolm, Mum."

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