the twelfth installment of
A Sackful of Holiday Horsefeathers
As always, no animals were harmed in the making of this chapter.
Remus arose from his seat as she entered, taking a few steps in her direction. "So, what about that opium scare?" he inquired.
"I am not at liberty to discuss that," Minerva told him quite firmly as she shut the door behind her.
"Only if administered veritaserum," she said. "Although, I should warn you, I have been researching various methods of resistance…"
"Why? What other secrets do you have, woman?" he cried in mock astonishment.
"As many as befits a woman of my age. And if you're lucky, I'll share a few with you," she answered.
He smiled, intrigued. "Fair enough."
His youthful charm was almost enough to make her spill any secret, and indeed it took her a great effort to resist the temptation to tell him about Madam Pomfrey's discovery.
"What are you thinking about?" asked Remus.
"I'm thinking that we have one more hour before we have to leave for Hogsmeade," said Minerva, taking a seat on one of the oversized couches. Remus slid in beside her.
"Who volunteered us for that, anyway?" he asked.
"Oh, Dumbledore. Who else?"
"Why do we have to be the ones to babysit all the time?" grumbled Remus. "How about Flitwick or Hagrid? Or Snape? In fact, what has Snape been up to all this time, eh? I bet he's brewing up something in that dungeon of his…"
"I believe that's his job, being the Potions master," said Minerva.
"I bet it's a great cover for him," said Remus. "He could be making a deadly potion right in front of us, and we'd be none the wiser."
Minerva entertained the thought momentarily. She had to admit the potential was there. "But that's enough talk about Severus," she said. "I'd much rather discuss other topics, as long as I have you here."
With the end of vacation steadily approaching, a growing sense of urgency had overcome the two lovers. It crept into the timbre of their voices and invaded their gazes as they went about their days, in the struggle to keep time from rushing ahead too swiftly. Remus felt this compulsion all too strongly just then as he sat by Minerva's side.
"You're right, we ought to make the most of this time we have," he said.
Minerva said softly, "I wish you didn't have to leave."
"I truly wish I could stay," said Remus.
"I could hide you in my bedroom," she suggested, in partial jest.
"But then what would we do during the full moon?" Remus played along with her farfetched idea.
"I could transform into a cat and keep you company," she answered.
"I don't think that would be very wise."
"You're right; my cat form is rather small. You might view me as a tasty morsel."
"I'd rather you not see me like that—when I'm that way," said Remus.
"It's bound to happen sooner or later."
"No, I'm afraid you would not like what you see."
"That's a risk I'm willing to take," she insisted.
"But not one that I am willing to take."
Minerva was forced to abandon the idea. "So, I cannot hide you in my bedroom. The logistics behind such a scheme are simply much too complicated," she stated with a note of resignation.
"Then we'll just have to make time to see each other as often as we can," said Remus.
"I'll have a whole week off at Easter. I could come visit you," suggested Minerva.
"I would like that," said Remus. "What day is Easter?"
She consulted her academic schedule. "April 7th this year."
Remus did some quick mental calculations. "Good, that's perfect. I will be well back into human shape by then."
"Oh!" Minerva winced, visibly angry with herself. "I'm sorry, I wasn't even thinking of that."
"It's all right, no worries." Remus put his arm around her congenially. "Don't forget, we'll have the whole summer too."
"That's right," said Minerva, who had the great luck of choosing a career that afforded her a whole three months of freedom every year. "We could go on a trip even..."
"We could go to Egypt, or Morocco, or Hawaii..."
"We really should go on a trip," insisted Minerva.
"Where have you always wanted to go?" Remus asked her.
She let her mind venture into memories from her past. Destinations she had read about as a child appeared before her—magical places where she'd longed to go, but so much time had passed it seemed they were no longer real, but merely remnants of a dream.
"The Hölloch Caverns in Switzerland," said Minerva with a wistful look in her eye. "I've always wanted to go there."
"Then that's where we're going," stated Remus.
Harry glanced up at the clock for about the hundredth time that day. His arms were elbow-deep in soapy water, and his fingertips had long ago shriveled into prunes.
Every now and then Dobby would visit and help him with the dishes. Housework came naturally to house-elves, so Dobby could get a sinkful washed and dried in a fraction of the time it took Harry.
"Dobby is so happy to serve Harry Potter," sang the house-elf.
Harry gave him a half-hearted grin, for that was all he could muster at this point.
"You can't imagine how delighted Dobby is to see you sir," continued Dobby. He picked up a large kettle and swirled a towel all over its dripping surfaces so quickly that his hands became one big blur to Harry's eyes.
"The pleasure's all mine, Dobby. Believe me," said Harry as he began scrubbing yet another rectangular cake pan.
Dumbledore looked up from his crossword puzzle. His antique Muggle cuckoo clock was chiming the hour, and its two miniature doors had opened to reveal a little Dutch boy chasing a little Dutch girl in and out of the cuckoo clock.
Dumbledore shook his head and returned his gaze to the crossword puzzle. His most recent job applicant was already late. How annoying. It wouldn't do to have a tardy Defence Against the Dark Arts Teacher.
The current Defence Against the Dark Arts Teacher was proving to be unsatisfactory. Dumbledore strongly suspected her of employee theft. The missing silverware and precious jewels had not yet been recovered, and now his favorite Chocolate Frog Card had vanished as well. "Why can't I find an HONEST employee for once?" Dumbledore muttered to himself in exasperation. "Oh, with the exception of Remus Lupin, of course. He was straightforward with me. But for the love of Bob, why can't I find an honest son of a b-"
An unexpected noise made the Headmaster jump out of his seat.
Dumbledore looked about, terribly flustered, for he could see neither hide nor hair of the being the voice belonged to.
Fawkes the Phoenix was pointing with his beak toward a spot in mid-air, where a furry, black creature was beating its wings.
"A bat?" murmured the Headmaster in dismay. "I thought Hagrid took care of that pest problem months ago!"
If the bat took offense at this, he did not show it. Instead, he metamorphosed into his much larger, wingless form and bowed before the Headmaster.
"Greetings, Headmaster Dumbledore," said the tall, slender man in front of the desk. "I have been waiting for a while now, but I suspect you have many important things dwelling upon your mind."
"Ah, yes," Dumbledore said.
The strange man leaned far over the Headmaster's desk and introduced himself, "I am Viscount Norman de Viona. I replied to your ad, remember?"
Dumbledore was overwhelmed by the viscount's mere presence, but he managed to squeak out a question, "You are an Animagus?"
Viscount Norman grinned, revealing his pointy canines. "Au contraire. I am a vampire. But have no fear for your dear little ones; I only drink the blood of French virgins. Preferably Veelas."
Dumbledore swallowed. "Could you perhaps refrain from leaning over my desk? There is a chair, behind you. Yes, very good."
Now that the viscount was seated, Dumbledore was able to breathe again. The scent of cologne, however, was not as amenable as its wearer; it lingered in the air for days afterward.
"Now then," said Dumbledore, pulling out a sheet of writing paper and a quill, "Who was your last employer?"
The viscount paused; he was thinking very hard. "I have had only one employer in my whole life. It was a summer job, on St. Maarten. During the day, I would serve drinks at a counter."
"You were a bartender?"
"Yes! Yes, that's the word," said Norman.
"Did you work on the French side or the Dutch side?" inquired Dumbledore.
"What does it matter?" said the viscount carelessly.
Dumbledore jotted down, 'Dutch side.' "May I contact your former employer?" he asked.
"Of course," said the viscount. "Her name was Sophie. Just send an owl to the Hungry Ear Cafe, and she'll tell you all about me."
"Do you have any experience with children?"
"Other than drinking their blood...?"
Dumbledore's eyes widened. "Um...eh...do you have any experience teaching children?"
The vampire leaned back and resumed his thinking stance. "You know what? I just might... Yes, I do! There was this one time in St. Maarten when I was teaching a group of children how to make blood flavored lollipops! What would that fall under? Cuisine? Culinary skills?"
Dumbledore tilted his head, apparently trying to accept this incident as a viable teaching experience. "Well, Fred and George Weasley are in that kind of business. I suppose it's not bad. Really, it's sort of amusing, what with the candy, and the entertainment factor that goes along with it. I used to be fond of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans, and the blood flavored ones were not so bad, not really."
"I love Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans," the viscount professed. "But you have to watch out for the vomit flavored ones. They look just like toffee."
Dumbledore smiled feebly. He wrote down on his paper, 'Mutual dislike of vomit-flavored jelly beans.'
He said to the viscount, "Tell me some of your hobbies."
"Well, I like riding. I breed horses, you know."
"How interesting. What else do you do with your free time?"
"I also practice the Dark Arts with my vampire coven. Tuesday nights at eight," said the viscount.
"Did you say you have a coven?" Dumbledore asked, hoping he had heard wrong.
"Oh, yes. It's a lark. But don't get the wrong impression about us; we are all very dedicated to the craft, and we take everything seriously. If you'd like to join us, I could put in a good word for you with our leader," offered the viscount.
"No, thank you. That won't be necessary," sighed Dumbledore. He looked the job applicant in the eye. The applicant looked back. There was a trace of red in his brown eyes that Dumbledore had not noticed before. Strange. Haunting, really.
Dumbledore had a few more questions to ask before totally giving up hope. "Why do you want to work here, Viscount Norman?"
"Oh, I don't know. Always like to try new things. I've heard a lot of famous people have been Defence Against the Dark Arts Professors here at Hogwarts: Gilderoy Lockhart, Bartemius Crouch Jr., that funny little man with the stutter who was possessed by Lord Voldemort... And I thought, 'Well, I want to be famous, too. Why don't I give it a shot?'"
Dumbledore shrugged and gave him a half-hearted smile.
Viscount Norman inquired, "Do we get overtime and paid holidays?"
"Do you understand that this is probably the most demanding task you have ever faced in your life?" asked Dumbledore.
"What? Teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts to a bunch of wizards? Piece of cake," said the viscount.
"These are not just wizards, Viscount Norman. These are adolescents. The most difficult kind. Full of unpredictable mood swings, and—and epileptic seizures," Dumbledore warned him.
"Well, it's a good thing I know the cure for epileptic seizures!" said the viscount with a look of triumph.
"I'm sure you do," said Dumbledore. "But there is more. Some of them have gone insane from the attacks on Hogwarts. They walk around in circles and mumble to themselves at the mere mention of Lord Voldemort. Some have even gone catatonic."
"That's horrible!" exclaimed the viscount, visibly distressed.
Dumbledore sadly shook his head. "There's nothing any of us can do about catatonia," he said. "I'm afraid this is the beginning of the end. Hogwarts will eventually shut down. No parents will want to send their children here. They would rather send them to Durmstrang and Beauxbatons, where less exciting things happen and nobody is ever in mortal peril."
The viscount did not look discouraged by this news. He said to Dumbledore, "But we must help the students who remain here. Mortal peril is all the more reason for us to work harder!"
"You don't understand! We're closing down next year. There will be no more Hogwarts, no more Defence Against the Dark Arts, and no more snogging in the Astronomy Tower!" yelled Dumbledore.
"Oh," said the vampire viscount. "Well, perhaps I could apply at Durmstrang?"
"That might be a good idea," said Dumbledore.
"Is Igor Karkaroff still in charge there?"
"No," said Dumbledore sharply. "He disappeared half a year ago."
"Oh, right. Of course," said the viscount. "Who's running it now?"
"I believe their new Headmaster is Mr. R—. He used to be their Dark Arts Teacher."
"Ah." The viscount nodded. He stood up and reached out his hand, which Dumbledore shook after an awkward hesitation. "Thank you very much. It's been a pleasure."
"Likewise," Dumbledore murmured, forcing a smile.
The viscount turned back into a bat and flew out the open window.
'So that's how he got in here,' thought Dumbledore, stroking his beard. 'It must be easier getting around that way. I should have become an Animagus. But then, I probably would've gotten some stupid animal like a porcupine.'
...to be continued
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