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A Slightly Different Trio (Alexandrian Librarian) (26 July)
Zam Wesell
alexandrian_lib wrote in 30_hath
Title: A Slightly Different Trio
Author: alexandrian_lib
House: Ravenclaw
Date/Challenge: 26 – We are advertis'd by our loving friends
Character/Pairing: Tom Riddle, Minerva McGonagall, Sybill Trelawney
Rating: G
Word Count: 2349
Genre/Warnings (if applicable): Gen

The Leaky Cauldron, May 1950

"Tom!" The shout came from a dark-haired witch with a pointed nose, wearing a dark blue cloak and clutching desperately at a stack of very thick books with a slick parcel perched precariously atop them. The landlord scurried over at the call and arrived at her side in time to see the entire pile slide from her grasp and scatter on the floor, with the parcel sliding across the poorly polished stones and shedding its contents along its path. One particularly large tome landed directly on his foot, and he let out a howl. The witch turned to the landlord and snapped, "Not you, Tom." She then turned stiffly away from the still-whimpering man and began to Summon the books back into her arms.

"Minerva, is this for me?" A dark-haired wizard sitting at a table near the entrance said teasingly, holding up a rather Victorian corset from the trail of clothing from the robe shop parcel. Minerva blushed with embarrassment, then flushed with irritation.

Stalking towards him, flicking her wand at the floor and causing the contents of the parcel to gather themselves up again neatly, she began to scold. The landlord quickly removed himself from her vicinity. "Tom Riddle, you inveterate Slytherin cad, I call for help and you sit there and laugh at my purchases?" The man was indeed laughing quietly, but he gamely replaced the corset with the other clothing.

"What do you want with a corset anyway? You're as stunning as ever." To lend credence to his words, he swept his eyes deliberately up and down her figure. Minerva sat down across from him with a long-suffering huff. She piled most of the books on the chair next to her but slammed the oldest-looking one triumphantly on the table in front of Tom. He leaned forward, interested despite his attempt to look nonchalant.

"Blood Magic: A Primer," he read from the cover. "Minerva, wherever did you find this?"

She favored him with a smug smile. "In the back bargain stacks at Flourish and Blotts. They'd quite forgotten they had it. I expect they haven't been able to sell it since Twillfit got out of the bookshop business and let them have the lot. I'm taking it in to work on in the Department, but I thought you might like to look at it first."

"Speaking of which, how has work been lately?" Tom looked into her eyes as he spoke, but his hand absently caressed the binding.

"Unspeakable, as usual. Here, you'll like this." She thumped another book from her pile on top of Blood Magic: A Primer. Tom looked less impressed this time.

"Dark Beasts and Where to Find Them. I've read it already; it's not that interesting."

"This copy is," Minerva said confidently. "I found it at the junk shop under a pile of old robes. The same pile as the corset, by the way. I thought I'd take the lot; there were some interesting items in the pockets of the robes, but I didn't have time to look through them all, as I was nearly late to meet you and Sybill. It seems nobody wanted to buy anything from a pile with venom-spattered robes on top, so I got a very good price. The advantages of bravery, you see." She paused to let Tom roll his eyes at the Gryffindor sentiment, then flipped open the book's cover and brought her finger confidently down upon the former owner's name. "This was Grindelwald's personal, annotated copy."

A hungry gleam came into Tom's eyes. "You bought the collected belongings of Grindelwald?" He paused and quirked an eyebrow. "Grindelwald owned a corset?" He paused again, then quirked the side of his mouth this time. "For what arcane Dark ritual does one need a corset?"

Minerva smirked back at him. "That is what I plan to study for my next project. A useful use of Department time and resources, isn't it?"

"Tom Riddle! Minerva McGonagall! It's been far too long since I've seen you both!" The high-pitched, breathy voice heralded the arrival of Sybill Trelawney. She swooped down on the pair and flung an arm around each of them. Minerva, having been hit in the nose with a gauzy yellow scarf, looked sterner than usual and merely snorted.

Tom cast a skeptical gaze upon Sybill's attire. She was wearing yellow silk robes with black lace trimming and had filmy scarves draped around her neck and tied around her waist. "Hufflepuff pride, I see," he commented.

"Well, it's Helga Hufflepuff's birthday, so many of us like to dress up in Hufflepuff colours in her honor." Sybill pushed the two books to the corner of the table, then sat down. Tom looked a little surprised at the separation of Blood Magic: A Primer from his stroking fingers.

"Loyal to the last," Tom said, smiling.

"And dressed like a gossamer bumblebee," Minerva added under her breath.

"Don't mind her," Tom rejoined, placing his suddenly unoccupied hand on Sybill's. "She's just in a bit of a mood after having dropped Grindelwald's corset on the floor in front of the entire pub."

Sybill laughed delightedly, if a bit bemusedly, and her friends could smell a ghost of alcohol on her breath. "Are you going to order anything to eat," she began, looking around for Tom-the-landlord, "or are you just going to sit and pass dusty old books back and forth like you did at Hogwarts? And fondle Grindlewald's corset," she continued mischievously, although she was a bit unsure of the reference. Minerva scoffed and shoved the parcel behind the stack of books remaining on the chair.

The Hog's Head, January 1957

The wind blew a gust of cold air and a small pile of snow into the interior of the pub as Professor Minerva McGonagall stepped, shivering, over the threshhold. She looked around for a few seconds, then walked briskly to a table in the corner, her sensible shoes making an unnaturally loud clacking among the whispering patrons. The man at the table stood to greet her, although his companion stayed slumped desolately over her glass.

"Congratulations, Professor McGonagall," he said, sounding only the smallest bit bitter and extending a hand in greeting.

"Tom," she said cheerfully, her face relaxing a little from its stern lines. "Sybill," she said, placing one hand in Tom's and the other on his companion's shoulder. The other woman looked up piteously, then seemed to make a concerted effort to cheer up. Minerva sat down in the chair Tom pulled out for her, discreetly casting a Cheering Charm in Sybill's direction. Tom snorted appreciatively.

Minerva gave her own snort at the glass of gillywater already waiting at her place. "You bought me a fishy drink?"

"You are--excuse me, were--an Unspeakable, Minerva; everything about you is fishy," he said faux-innocently.

"Hmph," she replied, taking a sip. "I know fifteen Dark potions for which this can substitute for one of the ingredients. No self-respecting Unspeakable can drink gillywater without laughing."

A spark of interest appeared in Tom's eyes. "Fifteen? I know of only thirteen."

"You're probably forgetting the Oogum-Boogums Potion and the Wotcherthingy Draught of Eternal Tedium," Sybill cut in. "Can't you two stop talking about the Dark Arts? Every time I see you in the same room, it's always 'my library's bigger than your library.' Just once, I'd like to hear you say something about Quidditch, Tom."

"Fine," Tom replied sullenly. "Who's playing in the World Cup this year?"

Sybill and Minerva exchanged a look, amused on Sybill's part and horrified on Minerva's.

"'Who's playing?'" she repeated. "The World Cup is over, Tom. The next one isn't for a long time."

Tom scowled. "You know, you'd be the perfect woman if only you'd stop babbling about sport." Minerva looked as though she were planning to hit him.

"Something intelligent about Quidditch," Sybill amended. "And that was a compliment, Minerva," she said in a placating tone, trying not to look jealous. She'd never been called almost-perfect by anyone.

Tom and Minerva seethed for a few minutes longer, while Sybill finished her drink and had a sip of Minerva's.

"Aren't you drinking rather a lot?" Minerva looked stern and concerned simultaneously.

"It's the visions," Tom explained. "She's having them in the daytime now."

"I find if I keep a little sedated, it helps," Sybill continued.

There was another silence.

"I suppose Dumbledore was quite impressed with you," Tom said to Minerva. "Transfiguration professor and Head of Gryffindor all at first."

Minerva shrugged. "He came to see me at the Department--left his wand at the door and followed all the rest of the procedures with better grace than anyone else's guests. I thought I owed it to him to hear him out after that. He said he couldn't be Headmaster on top of all his old duties, so he offered me the position. Really, Tom, you know all the other Gryffindor teachers at Hogwarts are inept; I was the only one suited. I've always wanted to teach, you know."

"How are you finding it?" Tom asked the polite question automatically.

"Well, I'm not nearly as good a teacher as I'd like to be," she said. "I miss the Department, also; there isn't anyone at the school with whom to discuss fundamental principles of magic. They all try to refer me to the Defence professor; I think they suspect I'm up to no good. Speaking of which, how was Albania?"

Minerva asked the last question just as Tom asked, "Who's teaching Defence?" His face closed off when he heard what she had asked.

"A former Ministry bureaucrat by the name of Slinkhard. He's an idiot, but he's the only one who was available. He wrote his own text for the class, so the students can't even learn from reading the book." Minerva's lips thinned; she was righteously incensed. "You should apply for the position, Tom; you'd be perfect."

Sybill broke in with, "Yes, and I should apply for the Divinations position when it becomes available, and we shall all be happy professors at Hogwarts, just like we've always planned!" Minerva was looking at her when she said it, so both women missed the look of fury that crossed Tom's face at Minerva's suggestion.

A few of the patrons left, letting in another blast of cold air and snow. Silence descended on the three again, and they turned to their gloomy individual thoughts.

Sybill finally said aloud, "Minerva, you've been buried in your work for too long. You haven't owled me in months because you were ever so busy researching, and now you're going to be too busy teaching to pay attention to your friends. You haven't even asked Tom why he looks so terrible or even seemed as though you cared that he looks as though he were about to drop dead on the spot."

Tom tried to look as though he were grateful for Sybill's loyalty instead of irritated by her fussiness.

Minerva looked angry for a few seconds then calmed down. "I'm sorry, Tom, I didn't mean to be uncaring. I suppose I just got used to all the Unspeakables who have been studying too hard for decades. They all come to look a bit worn about the edges. Jigger was almost fading away from the outside in, but none of us thought it odd."

"Jigger... from the famous potions family?" Tom had heard plenty of Slughorn's stories about the Jiggers.

"Yes, although he was their mad Charms genius. He's the one who put the 'To Cheat Death, You Must Eat Death' banner in one of the research rooms of the Department. Bit of an odd man, really. He walked through an archway in the middle of a research meeting and never came back. I spent three months studying that archway, and I still don't know how he built it or what it properly does."

Sybill let out an exaggerated yawn, hoping to forestall yet another academic discussion. Minerva's watch let out a squeal--You're late! You're late! Rush back and meet your fate! It had been a gift from Sybill, although Tom had been the one to charm it to speak its repertoire of phrases. Minerva jumped out of her chair, upsetting it.

"Oh, I must run; I'm to patrol the corridors on the next shift tonight, so I need to get back to Hogwarts. Happy birthday, Tom; it was absolutely lovely to see you two again. Do owl me. I'll try to owl you as soon as I can, but I can't make any promises." She pulled a present out of her cloak, kissed Tom on the cheek, and rushed out of the pub. Tom's hand went to his cheek, and he looked strange for a moment, as though he were not accustomed to human touch.

Sybill watched Minerva go. "I think teaching is spoiling her," she grumbled. "She was never this flighty before. Oh, don't look at me like that," she said in response to Tom's smirk, "I know I'm flightier than Flitmore Fliticius the Flighty. It's just odd for Minerva." She peered at the present. "I think it's a book."

"Obviously," Tom said sardonically, unwrapping it. It was, in fact, a book. A Review of the Modern Dark Arts, the 1875 fifth edition. Tom looked towards the door and sighed faintly. Perhaps he wouldn't have erred in giving the object in his pocket to Minerva instead of to Sybill. Still, Hufflepuff loyalty, when properly nurtured, would most likely withstand more than would intellectual solidarity. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the object. "Here, Sybill, I want you to have this. I know you don't have a job at the moment, so this is sort of a reverse birthday present."

She held the bracelet up to the dim light, admiring its murky shine. "It's lovely, Tom, and I shall treasure it forever. What is it made of?"

Tom smiled almost innocuously. "It's a little piece of my soul."

"Oh, Tom," Sybill sighed, touched.


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::shudder:: that last line jus gave me the chills... the rest of the story was so upbeat and fluffy... sort of like happy memories from a pensieve...and then you dropped that bomb... this was a really clever little piece... i don't know how the logistics of their ages would work out but i like the idea of another trio... esp the intellectual solidarity between tom and minerva.. very cool

Thanks so much! I'm afraid I wrote this at the eleventh hour, so I'm especially glad you liked it. I don't think we've ever been told how old Trelawney is, and I very much enjoy the McGonagall-Trelawney interaction in the books, so I'm exploiting the ambiguity in order to improvise backstory. I can just see Harry never, ever finding the last Horcrux, since it's one of Trelawney's bangles (well, not in canon, I'm sure).

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