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Chapter 2: Chapter Two
Minerva had practically run back to her own quarters after showing Severus to his room. She was grateful that she hadn't seen anyone on the way and once she was in her chamber, she slammed the door shut behind her and sank down to the floor with her head resting on her knees. She felt the pain searing through her body and the old dull ache in the deep scars across her back as memories flooded into her mind. Losing so many people that had become friends, people she had fought beside hit too close to home and she closed her eyes trying to banish memories of old faces. She let out a deep growl and tried to stand up but her legs wouldn't move.
"Get up," she said quietly. She tried again but still her legs remained motionless. "Get up!" She said it with a renewed sense of resolve and finally she rose up from the ground. She brushed the few tears that had escaped from her eyes and straightened out her robes. She'd just managed to pull herself together when a knock sounded at her door. She paused a few seconds, giving the impression she had had to walk across the room, then opened the door.
"Well?" Filius asked, his arms folded across his chest.
"Well what?" She said, letting him walk past her into her living room.
"The boy. Pomona said he didn't say much when she brought him here, did you have any luck?" Filius was determined to accept Severus back into the fold, his good and friendly nature over-looking what everyone else could not. In any other circumstance she would have loved him for it.
"He always seemed to like you when he was a student here Minerva, perhaps you should try harder too..."
"Do not presume that I will take your advice on this Filius. I did not sanction his return and I certainly do not wish to talk to him." She knew she was being rude but her anger and hurt overpowered any resolve she had to stop herself. "If you're so intent on making him feel welcome then I suggest you go down and talk to the traitor yourself." Filius waited patiently for her to finish.
"Are you done?" He asked, softy.
"I..." She let out a long sigh, trying to gain control of years of pent up anger. "Yes."
"Good." He sat down on her sofa and Teensy, her house elf, appeared with a tray of tea just the way she liked it. She gave a small smile of thanks to the elf and to Filius, then joined him on the sofa. "He's here now Minerva. He must regret what he's done or else he wouldn't be here."
"I'd say it was an opportunity. The Governor's board allowed him to come here because Dumbledore swore he'd pledged his allegiance to us. Of course he had, what was he going to say to Albus when he questioned his reasons? I'm here because He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named sent me?" She gave a dry sarcastic laugh. "No one is foolish enough to welcome the confines of Azkaban, no matter where their loyalties lie."
"You condemn him too soon my friend, give him a chance and I'll think he'll surprise us all." Filius handed Minerva a cup of hot tea and welcomed it's warmth as it ran down her throat.
"I wish I could see the good in people as you do Filius."
"When I taught you as a child you were." He smiled at her and Minerva fixed him with a hard stare.
"That was before I learnt what people are capable of." Her hidden memories plaguing her mind.
"I feel you've lost faith in the people of this world." Filius said, bringing her out of her thoughts. "Don't be so quick to shut everyone out. Perhaps if you can learn to trust our new professor you might just find yourself regaining the ability to believe." Minerva rolled her eyes and smiled.
"Have you been talking to Albus?" Filius laughed.
"I think you'll find all wizards become voices of wisdom in their later years."He quickly drained his cup and stood up. "I should get going, things to do." He walked towards the door and Minerva followed him to see him out.
"Thank you Filius," she said, holding the door open for him.
"May I suggest a walk in the grounds before dinner, just to clear your head?" He winked and set off quickly down the halls. Minerva rolled her eyes again and shut the door. She knew what he meant. Walk the anger off, no one wanted her sitting in a brooding mood all through their first dinner back after summer. He was right.
The elf had already taken the tea away and her cloak was waiting for her on the sofa, it seemed Filius had taken care of everything before talking to her. She smiled as his constancy.
"It's raining Miss Neva," Teensy said from behind her.
"That's alright Teensy, you know I enjoy the rain." She patted the elf on the head as she walked past her. "Perhaps you can get the fire going for when I get back." Teensy nodded eagerly but her worried eyes followed her mistress. "I'll be fine."
With that Minerva made her way to the courtyard and slowly walked down the stone steps towards the Black Lake. The air was cool, promising the winter bite that was looming in the months to follow. She pulled her cloak around her tightly and increased the speed of her walk, hoping to generate some amount of heat. As she got to the lake she watched the Giant Squid making ripples on the water and she scanned the bank for drift wood. Instead she found a large dead tree, it must have been there for a while for even the insects had abandoned it. She waved her wand over it and it lifted into the air. She moved it over the lake and it hovered above the ripples, teasing the monster that lay underneath it. Suddenly a huge tentacle rose out of the water and made to grab the tree but Minerva was too fast for him. She continued to play with the squid for some time, something she'd done since being a student at Hogwarts. Finally the squid took hold of the tree and dragged it down into the depths to its final resting place.
She continued her walk, making her way back towards the castle. She stopped to look out over the loch, it was peacefully quiet and she basked in its glory. She stepped towards the large boulders and rocks that lined the cliff and climbed onto them to get a better look. The wind and rain was gentle against her face and she closed her eyes for a second. The sound of a twig breaking under someone's foot made her turn around quickly and she lost her balance. Her eyes spun around to see how close the edge of the cliff was and her heart exploded in her chest as her heeled shoes slid on the slippery rocks. She heard someone run towards her and whoever it was grabbed her arm and pulled her towards their body. She clung to whoever it was and hid her face in their robes.
"You should be more careful Professor," Severus said and Minerva's eyes snapped up to look at him. "You shouldn't have been up on the rocks."
"Well, you shouldn't be sneaking up on people," she said, moving away.
"You could have fallen."
"If you hadn't startled me I wouldn't have lost my balance." She swept a few wet strands of hair from her face and noticed her bun had come loose in the struggle.
"That wasn't my fault," Severus said, his voice and eyes dark. Minerva sighed, knowing he was right.
"What are you doing out here?" She asked, finally.
"Same as you I'd imagine."
"But it's raining."
"I could say the same to you." His face was unreadable and it infuriated her.
"Yes and I'm heading back inside now." She lifted a foot to step away from him and realised she was still standing on the rocks. She stumbled and once again Severus caught her. She straightened herself up and tried to pull her arm from him but he kept tight hold of her. He pulled her down off the rocks and once her feet hit the solid ground he let go of her arm. "Thank you," she said, a little reluctantly. Severus nodded but remained silent.
Minerva walked briskly back to the castle and headed for the dungeon entrance instead of walking back up the stone steps. She berated herself for her foolish behaviour and cursed Severus for not only pulling her back from the edge but having to do so twice. Twice! How could she be so careless? She walked along the freezing cold corridor and when she glanced back she saw Severus had followed her.
"Professor?" She stopped when he called her and turned to look at him.
"What is it?" She snapped and Severus faltered slightly before speaking.
"You hate me." It was a statement and it unnerved her to see his eyes void of emotion. She studied him for a moment and let the words filter into her mind. Did she hate him? Yes!Her mind screamed for her to say yes but she found she couldn't. Had Filius's words got under her skin without her realising? Don't be so quick to shut everyone out he'd said but she was reluctant to take his advice and she knew it had everything to do with the man standing in front of her. She took a deep breath and untangled her damp hair from around her neck.
"No." She said and Severus jerked oddly as if she'd slapped him.
"No?" He asked, eyeing her suspiciously as though he thought she was playing some sort of trick on him.
"No, I don't hate you." He gaped at her for a few seconds but Minerva continued before he could say anything. "Don't get me wrong, I dislike you... intensely. You are wicked and manipulative and untrustworthy." His black eyes bore into hers, drinking in every truthful word she spoke. "But I do trust Albus, and in this instance, I feel I must put my own prejudice aside and... believe in my friends' judgement." Perhaps if you can learn to trust our new professor you might just find yourself regaining the ability to believe.Damn Filius and his capability to get to her!
"Thank you, Professor." Severus said, quietly. It seemed alien to her to see him so unguarded and... desolate. It was out of character and it threw her. An uneasy wave of guilt swept over her and although she had spoke the truth, part of her regretted being so cold. If this young man had indeed done as he claimed and returned to their side then she should be encouraging and hospitable. But that wasn't her and she knew deep down that she couldn't do it.
"Dinner will be served soon, I suggest you go back to your room and change before coming to the Great Hall." She turned, intending to do the same thing, leaving Severus alone in the cold corridor.
She walked quickly, not wanting to give Severus chance to catch up in case he questioned her again. In the safety of her chamber she quickly changed her robes and forced herself not to think about the man that was, unbeknownst to her, thinking about her too.