"Are you also thinking about retiring?"
Galatea raised an eyebrow at Armando and placed a piece of cake on her plate. Their colleague's retirement had been expected; Stanley Swoopstikes was pushing on seventy, with a memory to match.
Her own retirement, however, was out of the question. She had been teaching for over fifty years, yes, but she still knew the curriculum content like the back of her hand. She knew she was still a good teacher, and given the difficult times the school was now facing, her students needed her more than ever.
"Not a chance," she said, taking a bite of cake.
"Professor Merrythought, what's in that cage?"
Galatea grinned. Out of all the lessons she taught, defence against Erklings was her favourite. She adored the way her students' faces would light up when they realised they could conquer the terrifying creatures.
"Who can tell me what this is?" she asked, lifting the sheet off the rattling cage.
"Looks like you, Myrtle!" Olive Hornby shouted.
Galatea rolled her eyes as the room filled with giggles. "Laugh now, but when you find yourself stung by an Erkling's dart, don't say I didn't warn you."
She smiled to herself as the class fell silent. Yes, she loved this lesson.
"Before you leave, Miss Warren, I'd like a word."
The Chamber of Secrets may have been opened, but Galatea still had a job to do, which included chasing up missing homework.
"Is there a reason your assignments are late?" she asked.
Myrtle bit her lip. "I-I've been distracted…"
Galatea sighed. "We've all been distracted lately, but we must carry on as normal. I still plan lessons, don't I?"
The girl's eyes welled with tears. "It's not—"
Galatea held up a hand. "The waterworks won't work. You have until Friday, alright?"
"But I can't focus. Olive is bull—"
Galatea took a deep breath as Myrtle left. She felt a little harsh, but with students now getting petrified, she needed to make sure all her students were doing their part to keep themselves safe rather than making excuses.
Galatea sighed as Myrtle fled from the classroom in tears—again. It was difficult enough to adjust her lesson plans for a smaller class with parents pulling their children out of Hogwarts—she didn't need any more empty desks.
"Sorry, Professor. I only told Myrtle to stop wearing those ug—unflattering spectacles," Olive said.
Sighing again, she turned to the chalkboard. "I'm not sure if classes will be cancelled, so I suggest we get on with the lesson before they are."
"Is it true? Is she really—" Galatea swallowed.
Armando nodded. "I'm afraid so; I don't know why she was in—are you alright?"
Her stomach churned. If she had only listened to Myrtle, stopped the torments, perhaps she wouldn't have been in the bathroom where she was… was...
"I think I should retire."
"You're a fine teacher, Galatea."
Staring at Myrtle's sobbing parents, she shook her head. "Not in the way that counts."