“Am I understood, my boy?” The gaze, Albus Dumbledore sent his way, was piercing.
“Yes, sir.” Harry looked as if he wanted to be someplace else and Dumbledore’s gaze softened slightly.
The old wizard tried since forever to make Harry see that there was a valid reason he trusted Snape. Harry just didn’t understand and he was pretty sure he never would. All the more because Severus Snape was the reason Harry was sitting here, hoping the ground would open up and swallow him whole. His former Potions Professor now had the DADA post, he was after since Harry could remember, but that didn’t make him one bit more tolerable. As always the Professor had been lying in wait to blame Harry for whatever reason, the first chance he got. If the dungeons bat wanted to waste his breath on Harry, he was welcome to. Snape didn’t matter anyway. But a disappointed look from Albus Dumbledore did matter!
The Headmaster looked as if he had to balance the whole world on his shoulders and Harry had made it even worse. Harry resented that looked, he wanted it to vanish. And if he had to be nice to Snape to make it happen, so be it!
“Well my boy, I wish you a pleasant evening then. Lemon drop?” At least the twinkling was back.
Harry took one of the small sweets, filled with syrup. He had already reached the door, when suddenly a question popped into his head, on the spur of the moment he turned around to look at the Headmaster of Hogwarts again. Dumbledore always offered lemon drops…
“Sir, would you tell me why you like those sweets so much?”
A smile lit Dumbledore’s face and his eyes became tender. To Harry it looked as if the Headmaster was suddenly much younger than he ought to. If the gaze was any indication, the sweets had to be a reminder of something he was very fond of.
“They remind me of a moment long gone. A flower in the prime of her life, planted on unforgiving and rough ground, carried us away with her yellow color, her grace and her high spirits. Her beauty and her lemon fragrance cast a spell with a special kind of magic.”
Harry was surprised, he hadn’t expected an answer, just the typical smile and twinkling eyes Dumbledore always used to keep his secrets to himself. With another gentle smile his mentor bid him good night. The whole way back to the common room, Harry pondered on the answer he’d got. What had the Headmaster meant by it? He couldn’t shake the feeling that the flower described by Albus Dumbledore was no plant at all.
“Huh? Why shouldn’t it?” Ron had listened, while doing his homework, now he was looking up at Harry.
“It didn’t sound like the description of a plant.”
Hermione just had to chuckle about Harry’s answer. Wasn’t it obvious that ‘flower’ was not meant in the proper sense of the word? Boys! Sometimes she just couldn’t figure them out.
“Guys, he didn’t talk about a botanical marvel, he was talking about a woman!”
Ron looked completely stumped. Harry not so much, but he wasn’t convinced either. Hermione slipped into lecture mode.
“Guys, think about it! A flower doesn’t bloom years and years and years. It blooms and dies in a biological cycle. Also ‘prime of her life’ is a combination used to describe humans when their beauty and everything else reaches its zenith. Flowers don’t move, they can’t be graceful and without a soul you can’t be in high spirits! And besides a flower with lemon fragrance doesn’t exist, unless it is a cultured one.”
Harry and Ron stared at her flabbergasted. Well, she was the smartest witch of their age.
“He was definitely talking about a human being and since he used ‘prime of her life’, ‘grace’, ‘high spirits’, her scent and ‘cast a spell without magic’, I am sure he was talking about a female, maybe his girlfriend or his fiancé?”
Harry shook his head. No, Dumbledore’s eyes had softened visibly and his gaze had been affectionate, but it was a different kind of affectionate, not like his parents looked at each other in the pictures. More like… well, more like he looked at Hermione, he guessed. A fond gaze, reserved for friends only. Hermione listened, while Harry tried to explain his thoughts. Ron used the silence to speak up.
“So… it is a woman and Dumbledore likes her. Who is she?” They looked at each other, but no one had a clue. The Headmaster had roamed the world; he could have met her practically everywhere!
“Do you think we’ve already met her?” Ron continued his train of thought. “How about… Merlin’s pants! How about my mother?!” Harry and Hermione looked at each other and the next second they were dying of laughter. They couldn’t help themselves, Molly Weasley as fragile, graceful flower?! No offense, but that just didn’t fit their view of the world! Molly was an elemental force and besides…
“She doesn’t smell like lemons.” And with that statement the discussion was closed.
But really, who was that woman? The Golden Trio put their homework aside and began to list the possibilities, but no person on their list met the requirements. Over the next few days their focus was solely on the mysterious woman. No wonder, they were not able to concentrate in class! Not even Hermione was able to follow the lessons and was admonished several times (for once not caring). And after all that thinking, they still had nothing to show!
The person continued to be a mystery. WHO WAS SHE?! Harry’s concentration had seldom been so abysmal. He knew exactly where that would end! Scenario 1: He wouldn’t be able to focus in Snape’s class, Snape would bite his head off and he would get detention. Scenario 2: He wouldn’t be able to focus in Snape’s class, a stray curse would hit him, his body would hurt for weeks, Snape would bite his head off and he would get two detentions, for not focusing and letting his guard down. This had to stop (or he would pay dearly for it)! He couldn’t ask Dumbledore, who wouldn’t answer him anyway, Ron and Hermione had as much a clue as him and to ask a teacher was no option either. He wished he had a clue what to do.
Harry stopped dead in his tracks, in the middle of some deserted corridor, when the penny finally dropped. Of course! Sometimes he was such an idiot! A wish… maybe the room of requirement could help him! It gave you whatever you wished for, maybe… even an answer to a question? It was worth a try! Harry ran to the corridor on the 7th floor, as if Voldemort himself was chasing him. At the last corner he had to stop, because Professor McGonagall and Professor Sprout were on their way through.
“Come on Minerva, it’s Albus birthday today and I know you have something planned!”
“You think so?”
“I know you Minerva and this year is not only his birthday, but also the 60th anniversary of our school leaver’s ball. Spill it!”
Harry couldn’t hear what McGonagall answered anymore. Birthday… he hadn’t had a clue… nothing new so far. Well, let’s try and change that! He tried to remember Dumbledore’s words and began walking and… really the door appeared! He rushed through, but if he had thought the person would wait on the other side of the door, he was disappointed. The room of requirement was empty, flooded with sunlight, but empty. Suddenly the sunlight started to move and formed words out of golden beams.
I can’t give you the answer you sought
for that magic law is to well-wrought.
Her identity I must conceal,
but my memory I can reveal.
The ground opened and Harry was swallowed. He slid through a tunnel, without a way of knowing where he was going and when this blind journey would end. After an eternity or maybe just a second, he found himself in the Great Hall. The whole room looked like a ballroom. He only had seen one ball, the ball for the Triwizard Tournament and it couldn’t hold a candle to what was displayed before his eyes!
The ceiling had been changed magically into a polished mirror, reflecting the whole event going on below. Chandeliers had taken the place of the candles, they refracted the light, sending rainbows through the hall. The walls were decorated with tapestries, showing the crests of all houses of Hogwarts. The fabric was not heavy and old, but light and silken, blending in with the rainbow beams, making the crests glow. The dance floor was surrounded by candelabras, giving the Great Hall a warm and welcoming sparkle. In the middle of it all the celebration was in full swing. The females in beautiful, big ballroom dresses were dancing with males in festive, dark colored robes. No comparison to the dresses and robes he knew!
Fascinated, Harry looked around until his gaze fell on a figure on a podium at the other end of the hall. Professor Dumbledore, but he was younger than Harry had ever seen him and behind him… that had to be the former Headmaster, but Harry couldn’t remember his name. Above them was a banner, reading: ‘Congratulation Graduates!’
Dumbledore let his gaze wander and suddenly something caught his attention. Harry was too far away, but it looked like his mentor was smiling. He tried to find the reason, when a bell-like laugh sounded through the hall, drowning out the music. Harry edged his way through the crowd, looking for the source of this laugh. Suddenly he tripped and fell into a circle, which had formed around a couple dancing in the middle. There she was! The flower in vibrant yellow!
The young woman was wearing a ball dress in extraordinaire, rich yellow that swished around her ankles, while she was twirled around on the dance floor. Whenever she looked in his direction he could see her green eyes shine. Her hair was a mixture of dark brown and pitch black, flowing in a put-up hairdo around her shoulders and down her back, accentuating her crème colored skin. All around him the students were fascinated by her grace and her way of dancing. It was clear as daylight that her ability was rivaled by none! Again her bell-like laugh sounded and Harry caught a glimpse of her delighted smile. Dumbledore had been right, she was more graceful than anyone, in high spirits and clearly worked her very own kind of magic.
The music came to an end and the girl turned from her partner, putting out her hand, ready for the next dance. Needless to say that the whole male population of the Great Hall was fighting tooth and nail to just get one dance with her. Harry looked over her head to the podium and directly into the eyes of Albus Dumbledore, who observed the scene with a gentle smile. The woman they were looking for had been one of his students! Harry didn’t know if she was brilliant, but she was without a doubt a very beautiful young woman.
He had been so absorbed in his thoughts that he didn’t notice the end of the dance. Harry was startled, when she went past him in the direction of Albus Dumbledore and for a tiny moment he really thought he caught a sniff of lemon fragrance.
“Professor, may I have the pleasure of this dance?”
Her smile was enchanting and Dumbledore led her to the dance floor. Harry looked on as the couple began dancing and one last time the bell-like laugh sounded through the hall.
Without warning, he was back in the empty room of requirement. He still didn’t know, who she was, but now he had clues to work with. She had green eyes, black hair, could dance like no other, smelled like lemons and had been a student of Albus Dumbledore. He had to find Ron and Hermione!
One hour later the Golden Trio trudged into the Great Hall, on time for dinner. It had been frustrating to say the least! Maybe they were just too thick? Even with the new clues, they couldn’t think of a woman that fit! That wasn’t possible, was it? They had discussed it and came to the conclusion that they would do the one thing no Gryffindor had ever done before: Give up! There was a first time for everything.
Harry sat down resigned to his fate, when suddenly lemon fragrance began tickling his nose. No, he had given up! Someone went by behind him in hurried pace and from one moment to the next Harry was drowning in the scent of lemons. Screw giving up! He turned around just in time to catch a glimpse of Minerva McGonagall, reaching the head table. Professor Sprout’s cry was so loud, even the students at the entrance were able to understand.
“Minerva, that’s the lemon shampoo I made you as a graduation gift! I knew it and where is your yellow dress?”
Sprout was grinning from ear to ear and McGonagall’s cheeks now adorned a bright blush, while she tried to quite her colleague down. Harry’s eyes widened and his gaze shot to Dumbledore, who had a gentle smile on his face while watching the two women with twinkling eyes.
“…lemon fragrance cast a spell…”
“… this year is not only his birthday, but also the 60th anniversary of our school leaver’s ball…”
He observed the scene with a gentle smile.
“…lemon shampoo… as graduation gift!”
“Where is your yellow dress?”
Suddenly he was startled out of his thoughts as a bell-like laugh sounded through the Great Hall. More than one student stopped eating and looked up. Harry’s gaze shot back to McGonagall and finally the pieces clicked. He would have recognized this laugh out of thousands.
Harry stared at the smiling face of his Transfiguration teacher and in the twinkling of an eye the wrinkles vanished, the glasses dissolved, the grey bun became long, dark strands of hair and the teacher robes changed into a vibrant yellow dress. For a tiny moment Harry saw the beautiful, unmatched, young woman, Minerva McGonagall had been more than fifty years ago. Then someone dropped a fork beside him and the image began to fade…
… leaving a vivid memory and the light, almost unnoticeable fragrance of lemons.