Harold sighed. He found himself quite regretting asking his fourth years to write an essay on the ethical considerations of applied thaumaturgy in connection to chronometry. He was rather convinced that not a single one of them understood the problem inherent in using a Time Turner, and that they were all too busy daydreaming over 'having that perfect breakfast again' or some such twaddle. The notion did occur that, perhaps, he might have expected more from them than capable, but, well, he had given them plenty of material including what could be told about Eloise Mintumble
He rather suspected one or two of the students with Muggle families allowed their students to watch that perfectly lamentable broadcast, that one with the professor with the ridiculous name. Next they'll be allowing all of the interrogative pronouns as fairy tale characters. Though the notion of trying to consider a 'Professor Why' did briefly amuse him.
He'd managed to stomach the first three or four essays, red ink in hand, and a very strong cup of tea, but it hadn't been enough. No, what this needed was some sympathy from the other professors. The staff room, it would have to be. It wasn't entirely usual for Harold to seek out fellow teachers but there was some succour in the shared suffering, and odds were pretty good that at least one other professor would be in the same boat.
Gathering up his as-yet-unmarked essays, slotting his tea cup into his tea bag, he made his way across the castle. To his relative surprise, the staff room was almost empty - only Professor McGonagal was sat marking, but the look on her face was especially pensive, and Harold knew that she was having as much of a situation as he was. But it was good small talk.
Upon her noticing his arrival, he gestured to her own marking, and ruefully noted, "I have some marking of my own, and, well, not to put too fine a point on it, I am rather a little out of sorts with this batch - do I detect from the look on your face that you have the same?"
The look on her face said everything. But with Minerva, one look often did.
He sat in the corner chair, unpacked his things and began to read. There was a mild hurrumph, a bit of huffing and a sound that resembled that of an unexpectedly airborne scroll in more ways than perhaps it should have. Without saying a word, McGonagal packed up her things and strode off, leaving Harold none the wiser.
He made it through one more essay, before unpacking his tea bag to brew a cup. Very important step, the tea must be left to steep, and he took the opportunity to stretch. In so doing, he noticed the books and notepapers left in Tannenbaum's spot - unlike the other teachers who tended to use the space as and when, Professor Tannenbaum seemed to have a preference for one spot, and every time Harold had seen him, it was in the same chair.
But books weren't usually left there, nor notes. Tannenbaum was usually much tidier than that. And as the room was empty... with whatever paper Minerva had seen to tip her over whatever personal frustration was going on, he could safely take a quick peek before going back to his own work. And, well, he couldn't really start another scroll without being interrupted by the tea, now, could he?
The books were, predictably, about runes - but this time they had a different flavour. The previous one he had seen had been investigations into runes of death, while this... he recognised it.
Death took many forms, but runes in his particular field of study rarely changed. Something about the crossed lines of an hourglass perpetuated through all the forms. The sands of time running loose: there was no mistaking that this was about runes of time.
So, then, less about ending a life and more prolonging one? Neither seemed to fit the pattern of what Dumbledore had asked him to be on the watch for - but the devil takes many forms, and why not this? Countless sorcerers and magicians throughout the years have talked about banishing death, life eternal. Rumour was that even a Philosopher's Stone had been cast and forged. Harold idly wondered if one might strike a time rune in its making.
He left Tannenbaum's papers alone as he heard his kettle making its familiar whistle. Tea time. Time for tea. Time for essays. Time for runes. Runes for time.
Sipping at the freshly made tea, he thought - almost aloud - "What in Merlin's name are you doing?"
It had occurred to him that he could go research the time runes as he had the death runes, but it also occurred to him that without a focus, it was rather like his students' essays: an unethical waste of time.