FRIENDS IN NEED
Harry was lost in thought as he made his way down the deserted castle corridors toward Professor McGonagall's old office. As he turned a corner he nearly collided with a black-robed Professor McGonagall.
"Potter, I came looking for you," McGonagall said with a tone of shock and surprise in her voice, "You need to be more careful. Quickly now, let's get to my office."
Professor McGonagall was silent the remainder of the trip. Harry noticed that she kept her wand in her hand and seemed to be quite in a hurry. Several times he had to run to keep up with her frenetic pace. Not until they were inside the office and the door locked behind them did McGonagall seem to relax.
"You said you wanted to see me when I was finished with Professor Dumbledore." Harry said.
"Yes, thank you for coming Potter," clipped McGonagall, "You have had quite a day. I wanted to cover a few items before you head off to bed. As I mentioned, you will need to be able to get through the Headmaster's office door to be able to speak to Albus again. I had GRASSP, a goblin security company; improve the security at the guardian gargoyle and install a mirr panel in the office door to prevent unauthorized entry. They use some of the same devices that keep Gringott's Bank secure. You already know the password to get past the stone gargoyle. The office door is another matter. Please come with me." McGonagall motioned to a full-length swivel mirror placed against the wall of her office. She summoned the mirror away from the wall and stopped it in front of Harry. McGonagall then walked around the back of the mirror and stood facing it. She touched the back of the mirror with her wand and then placed her hand against the glass, which distorted at her touch. Her hand slipped through the glass but didn't immediately emerge from the front of the mirror. McGonagall continued to push her arm until it was "inside" the mirror to her elbow. At this point her hand extended out the front of the mirror. "Take my hand Potter, and don't let go," said McGonagall. Harry took her hand and she immediately pulled his hand "inside" the mirror.
The feeling that enveloped Harry's hand was immediate and intense. It felt as if his arm was being torn off by a large dog. The desire to pull his hand away from McGonagall's grip was overwhelming. Only McGonagall's firm grip, and admonition not to let go, kept him from jerking his hand out of the mirror.
McGonagall, either better disciplined, or not feeling the same pain that Harry was experiencing, said calmly, "Now Potter, bend down a wee bit and while looking in the mirror touch the surface of the glass with your wand. Once again I caution you not to let go of my hand, the consequences would, I assure you, be dire."
Harry, on the verge of panic, focused his full attention on McGonagall's instructions. The concentration eased the mounting pain in his arm. As he bent down and looked in the mirror, he saw only his own reflection. When he touched the surface of the mirror with his wand he instinctively tried to back away. Lunging toward the surface of the mirror straight at him was a snarling, snapping wolf. Only McGonagall's tight grip on his hand prevented him from accomplishing his getaway. As his hand made the slight motion toward him, Harry was rewarded with a doubling of the pain. All of Harry's reasoning was screaming, "GET AWAY."
McGonagall's words cut through Harry's pain, "Potter, touch the mirror with your wand again and look what you see directly in the eyes."
Harry didn't think he could do it; his arm was being torn to pieces inside the mirror. Summoning his remaining courage, Harry touched his wand to the surface of the mirror and looked directly at the crazed wolf trying desperately to get to him. As he did so, the wolf ceased growling and snapping, the mirror became transparent and Harry could see McGonagall on the other side as though through a pane of glass.
"Now Potter, I'm going to push your hand back out of the mirror. When your hand is entirely out of the mirror, you may release your grip." McGonagall proceeded to push Harry's hand out of the mirror.
Harry didn't dare look down. He knew his arm was mangled beyond repair. He felt his hand exit the glass, released McGonagall's hand and reluctantly looked down. To his amazement, his arm didn't have so much as a pink mark on it. He held his arm out in front of his face and rotated it unbelievingly.
"I know exactly how you are feeling," said McGonagall as she removed her hand from the back of the mirror, "I did the same thing the first time I set the pass sequence. Unfortunately, it doesn't get much easier the second time." Then almost to herself, "And this is the lowest setting that GRASSP provides for the mirr lock. I'd narry want ta see the highest setting." Regaining her composure, she walked back around the mirror and stopped facing Harry. "Now Potter, the mirr panel is set to accept your wand and your hand. When you are at the door touch the panel with your wand, look directly into the panel. You will see what you just saw. Reach into the panel and keep your hand in without flinching until you hear the lock release. You may then go in to the office. If anyone tries to force you to operate the lock, touch the panel with your wand and then your hand, but do not look into the mirror. The door will not unlock, and if any one tries to force it, well I wouldna' want ta be them."
Harry, still shaken from the lock-setting experience, tried to sort out the questions he had for McGonagall. "Professor, what will happen now to Hogwarts?" The question had nearly burst from Harry. He had almost asked the Porcrux Dumbledore, but had stopped as he realized that any answer would be based on conjecture. Harry realized that he was already sieving what he asked and to whom he asked his questions.
"Well," McGonagall began, "You deserve to know the state of things. I have been informed that while we were dealing with Dumbledore's willy and testament, the Hogwarts Board of Governors met with Minister Scrimgeour and reversed their decision to close the school immediately. They have agreed to allow the school to remain open the remainder of this school year. Students have returned with their belongings to their dormitories. I don't know yet about the next school year, but I have talked with the staff, the only teacher who has decided to leave is Professor Sinestra."
"Yeah, other than Snape," Harry cut in coldly.
"Yes Potter, I don't expect we'll be seeing Severus Snape around Hogwarts anytime soon," McGonagall said with a stern look at Harry. "As I was saying before I was interrupted..." she started.
Harry, stung by her words, interrupted again. "I'm sorry Professor, I apologize. I have made myself a promise to try and learn patience. So far I haven't been doing very well," he said honestly.
"Apology accepted, Mr. Potter. Patience has been a challenge for me also, I commend your desire to master that virtue," said McGonagall. She continued. "Back to your question. Professor Sinistra has left Hogwarts, saying she had done her part for Dumbledore. That leaves two openings for professors, one in Astronomy and one in Defense Against the Dark Arts. I have retained Alastor Moody to finish out the term in Defense Against the Dark Arts. Remus Lupin has agreed to finish the term teaching Astronomy, starting Monday next. Remus has made the phases of planets, stars, and moon in the night sky a life-long study. You can well guess why. So the teaching staff is at full mettle, although we had to shuffle some class schedules. With a little persuasion, nearly all house elf staff has agreed to stay. They hold a strong allegiance to the school as well as to Dumbledore. We have lost about one third of the students to concerned families. Nearly the entire Slytherin house is gone. I have asked Professor Slughorn to be Slytherin Head-of-House until term end. Hogwarts will get through this school year but I da' na' know what'll happen next year."
McGonagall seemed to shrink slightly at the last of her own words. The weight of keeping things functioning during these trying times at Hogwarts had to be a strain, thought Harry.
Breaking the momentary silence, Harry asked tentatively, "Professor McGonagall, Professor Dumbledore said he needed a couple of things. He asked me to contact Madame Maxime and ask her to arrange a visit to Hogwarts by Franscois DePais. I assume she left immediately after the funeral. I don't know how to contact her. Could you help me?"
"Of course, Potter," replied McGonagall, "Although I'm not positive of the location of Beauxbatons, I believe it's just across the channel. Your owl should be strong enough to make the trip quite capably. I suggest that you talk to Hagrid. He can provide you with any details that you need. I believe he keeps in contact with Madame Maxime."
As Harry nodded in agreement, he was a more than a little frustrated with himself. "Come on dolt, use your brain, Hedwig has never failed in a delivery, and you could have worked that through a little better before asking for any help," thought Harry, excoriating himself for his lack of creativity. Remembering his tasking Harry added, "Professor Dumbledore also said he needed to see you before you retired tonight."
"Thank you for telling me that, Potter," said McGonagall. She continued, "Now I think it is time for you to head to your dormitory and get some rest. I'll come with you that far."
"I really don't need an escort Professor," responded Harry, seeing through to McGonagall's motive.
"Maybe not, but as of today, all students will have to be accompanied by a teacher when they are outside their dormitories. That's why I had come to get you, and I'll feel better in any case," said McGonagall.
Her tone told Harry that he would not win this argument Deciding that there might even be something to gain on the trip to the common room, he changed tack and said, "Thank you Professor, I would be honored if you would walk with me."
Taken by surprise at the shift in attitude, McGonagall silently closed her mouth. She put away the forceful words she had prepared to speak in coercion. She finally said, "Let's get going Potter, it's getting later by the minute."
Watching her as they left the office, Harry noticed the intricate spell she performed to lock the door.
Seeing his attention to her actions, McGonagall said, "Take that as an example Potter, we live in a new time now, you never can be too careful...even here in the castle," she added, seemingly more to herself than to Harry.
As they walked along the corridor, Harry decided to use the opportunity to gain an additional insight into the events of the evening. "Professor, it seems to me that Professor Dumbledore prepared for many possibilities. Do you know what any of his plans were?" asked Harry.
"No I don't, and I assume that Albus will share with you the things he feels are necessary," said McGonagall in a tone that said she would also liked to have known more.
The remainder of the trip passed in silence. At the portrait of the Fat Lady, McGonagall said goodnight to Harry. She stayed in the hallway and waited until Harry was completely through the portrait hole before hurrying off toward the Headmaster's office.