December 1, 1944
Minerva McGonagall walked down the corridor with her head held high; she simply couldn't help but feel pleased with herself. And, who could, for that matter? She had finally done it, she was finally a teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The young Transfiguration teacher walked confidently into the great hall on her first day of teaching, and she felt a small jolt of satisfaction as she passed by the Gryffindor table on her way to the staff table. It was not that she had ever disliked sharing meals with her fellow students, but she had always dreamed of becoming a teacher, and she could not help feeling excited about taking her place at the staff table for the first time. However, it was nothing to the rush of delight she felt at the headmasters morning salutation.
"Good morning Professor McGonagall, and how are you today"? Inquired Albus Dumbledore.
"Very well, thank you. And you, Professor Dumbledore"? responded Minerva
She was simply elated to finally be addressed as an equal by the man that she had loved for fourteen long years. From the first day she sat in his Transfiguration class, she knew there was something special about him; it was not long after that that she realized that she was deeply in love with her professor. But, she had never expressed the feelings to him because she knew that it would be improper to do so. After all, she was a student and he was a teacher; he was Professor Dumbledore, her superior, and she was Miss McGonagall, his charge. It pained her slightly every time she addressed him thus, because it was a constant reminder that they could never be together. Even long after she left Hogwarts , she was still a former charge, and the love would be considered unethical. That was when she decided that she wished to become a teacher; because if she too was a teacher, she would finally be an equal of Albus Dumbledore. But, at eighteen, when she left school, she was far too young to become a teacher; she took a position on the accidental magical reversal squad, un-transfiguring accident victims. But, she was never really happy. Seven long years after leaving Hogwarts, she finally secured a position as Transfiguration professor. She had always been attracted to the profession of teaching, and equality with Albus had sealed the deal. Granted, as headmaster he was still her superior, but the gap was much smaller, they were both professors after all. They were colleges, and in a few short years everyone would forget that they were once student and teacher, and they could finally be together.
The rest of the day flew by in a whirl of delight. She found that she enjoyed teaching even more than she expected. She had found her place in the world: teaching alongside her true love; she was truly happy, at least for the time being.
March 29, 1945
"What's wrong Albus"?, asked a perplexed Minerva. A petulant Albus looked up from his newspaper to meet her eyes . He had been miserable for days, but he had yet to provide a satisfactory answer as to why.
"Oh nothing Minerva, just thinking.", he responded.
"Well, if nothing's wrong, then why have you been so morose lately?" She fixed him with a penetrating stare. She was very intent on the matter of his ill mood, she didn't want him to be unhappy, and she couldn't seem to silence a creeping suspicion that he was fretting over a women. She had not yet told him of her feelings for him, though they had developed a close friendship, and she worried that she may miss her chance. And they were alone by the staffroom fire, what better time was there to discuss her true feeling for the man she loved? But, only after she discovered what was troubling him.
"Alright", responded Albus resignedly, "I've just been thinking about The dark wizard Grindelwald, and his reign of terror in the north. I feel that I should confront him about his crimes, but I really would prefer to avoid dueling him. You see, we were once very good friends, and it pains me to see what he has become." He looked relieved to have finally spoken of his dilemma, and he looked to Minerva for her reaction.
"I see", she responded. This was far from what she expected his explanation to be, and she was unable to think of anything appropriate or comforting to say. Relief poured over her at the news that he was not brooding over secret love, and her hope that one day they could be together heightened. At the same moment, she felt a stab of guilt for her relief; she loved Albus, and she felt selfish for thinking of only her own happiness and desires before his. She raked her brains for something else to say. "You don't suppose that you could just talk to him and convince him that what he is doing is wrong. Then you wouldn't have to duel your old friend." She knew that it was a silly thing to say, but it was the best that she could do. the information had been unexpected and quite shocking; she never would have guessed that Albus had been the friend of a dark wizard, and she was even more shocked that he was hesitant to confront him.
"I doubt that I could avoid a duel if I confronted him openly", answered Albus grimly, "But still, you never know. I'll just have to sleep on it I suppose. Goodnight Minerva, and thank you for your advice." And with that, he left.
Minerva sat there bewildered for a moment, trying to collect her scrambled thoughts. There was defiantly something that he wasn't telling her, but she couldn't, for the life of her, guess what it was. She hoped that he would resolve his problem and return to his normal self soon; she disliked this morose and brooding Albus. She was also desperate to express her true feelings for him, but she felt it would be tactless to broach the subject while he was so distracted. Collecting her bag and papers, she returned to her rooms for the night and uttered a silent prayer that Albus would resolve his problems and realize her affection for him.
April 15, 1945
Minerva glanced of her office window for what must have been the hundredth time in an hour; unsurprisingly, the rain swept grounds were still deserted. She strained her eyes to try and make out the road beyond the gate that led to Hogsmead, and in doing so, saw that it, too was deserted. She directed her attention back to the essay she was grading; it was poorly done, and within a minute her attention was ebbing again. She stole yet another glance out of the window but found the grounds resolutely empty. This time she didn't even bother returning to her papers; she knew that she was far too fidgety to get any real work done. Admitting defeat, she packed away her papers. by the time she arrived in the staffroom, darkness had fallen and the rain hammering the windows had grown much louder. The room was deserted, so she sat alone by the roaring fire with nothing but disturbing thoughts to keep her company.
"What if he lost?", asked the voice in her head, "He could be dead, and you wouldn't even know it. And think , you never told him how you really feel".
"No, don't think that!", she told herself resolutely, "Just because he's been gone for two days, doesn't mean he isn't perfectly fine."
"But, he said he'd be back by nightfall when he left yesterday morning."
"Maybe he couldn't find Grindelwald?"
"But, he said he knew exactly where he would be."
She simply couldn't silence her own doubt and fear. What if she never got a chance to tell him that she loved him? She made to look out of the window again, but she saw only her own reflection in the black glass. She has just decided to simply go to bed, when the door creaked open and in stepped Albus, soaking wet and looking miserable.
"It is done; he's locked away for good. He will kill no more.", said Albus sadly.
Relief poured over Minerva at the sight of him ; he was alive, and he was home. Abandoning decorum, she rushed forward and embraced him crying, "Thank God your finally home! I was so worried about you; I feared the worst… but your safe now."
They stood there together for several long moments before Minerva realized that Albus was crying. She gently released herself from their embrace to look into his face. The second that those clear blue eyes met hers, she knew that his tears were not shed out of relief at the completion of his task; they were shed out of grief, greif from a terrible loss, the loss of a love. Everything made sense now, Albus' reluctance to confront Grindelwald, his delayed actions, his lack of a companion or spouse in his old age… Her scrambled thoughts fell into place with alarming rapidity; Albus had loved Grindelwald, had loved him more than anything else, loved Grindelwald as she loved Albus. She saw now what she had always known deep down; Dumbledore could never love her because his heart belonged to another. Something changed between the two of them that night. For Albus' part, he would never know the whole story, he would just see an older more grown up Minerva. As for Minerva, Albus would always be her dearest friend and mentor, but never again would she look at the man she loved and see what could be; she would only see what might have been.
"You're soaked Albus", said Minerva, "I best dry you off before you catch cold". With a flick of her wand Minerva dried his robes, and with another wave, she summoned a tea tray.
"Thank you Minerva", Dumbledore said, taking a cup of tea, "I don’t know where I'd be without you".
"You're welcome Albus", she said a little sadly. Only an hour ago she would have given anything to hear those words come out if his mouth, but now that she knew the truth they only made the pain worse. "You did the right thing Albus", Minerva said gently. When he didn’t respond, she continued, "You saved many lives tonight, everything you did was for the greater good".
"The greater good", said Albus bitterly, "everything he did was in the name of the greater good. All of the people he killed died for the greater good. It's just something to say to justify whatever terrible thing that you have done".
"But you did the right thing", Minerva said timidly, "you ended it, and you didn't even have to kill him".
His expression softened slightly, "yes, I did, I suppose, but it nearly destroyed me to do it, to see what he had become", he looked sadly over at Minerva, a tear glistening in his eye, "He meant more to me than you will ever fully understand".
They sat and drank there tea in silence, and then they both drifted off in the direction of their beds. But, Minerva McGonagall did not return to her room that night; she walked down through the castle and out into the storm where the rain was still pouring from the sky. She stepped out into the downpour and felt the icy rain wash over her. And then she ran out into full wrath of the storm, and it welcomed her with in washing steadily over her. She arrived at her favorite place on the banks of the lake, it was sheltered by large bushes that sheltered the occupant from view. It was hear that she stopped, her body simply wouldn’t allow her to go any further, so she sank onto a rock on the very edge of the water and cried. She didn’t even attempt to hold back the tears that came on with such a fury that I racked her whole body; she cried until she was spent and had no tears left. She blinked her eyes raw and stinging, and then she turned her face to the sky and felt the rain, icy against her tear swollen face. She didn't care that she was drenched to the bone, that she was colder than she had ever been before in her life, or even that come tomorrow she would be sick in bed with a high fever and a terrible head cold. She only wanted to let the icy rain wash her clean.
November 1, 1981
Nearly forty years had passed since the night she sat out in the rainstorm, but Professor Minerva McGonagall had changed very little. Her black hair was threaded with silvery grey and her face was harder and more lined, but other than that, very little had changed about her appearance. However, her expression was more sever, her demeanor stricter. She had truly grown up that night, and since then she had seen and heard many terrible things, and fought in many battles. She had fought in a bloody war against a dark wizard, who fashioned himself 'Lord Voldemort' or 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named', and lost many dear friends. The past eleven years had been an uphill battle against the dark forces but now it seemed that it was all over. But, at what cost had he been finished? Rumor had it that Voldemort had gone to Godric's Hollow to kill the Potter family, that he had killed Lilly and James Potter, but when he tried to kill Harry, their son, the curse had fail, and the most evil dark wizard of all time had been beat by a baby. The thought of Voldemort finally defeated was wonderful, but the thought of Lilly and James dead eclipsed all else. They had been students of hers, in her house at Hogwarts; they were like children to her, all of her students were. Having never married, she had no children of her own, her students filled that gap in her life; she taught them and watched them grow. The thought of two of them killed was horrible, and their son left all alone in the world. It was all very shocking, and she wasn't sure she could actually believe it; If they were in fact dead, it meant that Sirius Black, James' best friend had betrayed them. It was absurd, she wouldn't believe it; at least not until she had confirmation from one man. Hagrid told her that Dumbledore would be at number four Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surry that evening. So, the grey morning found Minerva sitting, in the form of a tabby cat, on the cold hard garden wall of number four.
It was not until very late that night that Albus Dumbledore finally appeared in Little Whinging. he explained to a horrified Minerva that the rumors were true, and that he had come to leave Harry with his family.
"You mean to leave Harry Potter here?", she said horrified, "I've watched them all day, they're the worst sort of muggles! You can't leave him here, they'll never understand him!" She was furious with Albus for even suggesting it! It would be condemning a boy who had already lost his entire family to further misery. It was unthinkable. And then it dawned on her, she could take Harry and raise him, she was sure Lilly and James would much prefer that she raised their son than the horrible people who lived here. She was on the verge of voicing this suggestion when Albus interrupted her.
"They're his family ,Minerva", he said gently, "the only family that he has. And, they can protect him like we never could". He knew what she had been about to say, and he disagreed.
Minerva doubted that the horrid muggles that lived here could offer any protection against the death eaters, but Albus had made it plain that the issue was not up for debate. At that moment Hagrid arrived with Harry on a flying motorbike. It was with a heavy heart that she watched Albus place baby Harry on the doorstep of number four Privet Drive. She simply stood there and looked at the bundle of blankets for a full minute; a guilty knot tied itself in her heart as she watched the baby sleep. He had suffered so much already, and his prospects of happiness here looked grim. She had to blink back tears as she turned away. Hagrid flew off on his bike, and Dumbledore disappearated; she was alone on the street with baby Harry now. She could have taken him with her then and there, it would have saved him a lot of misery in the years to come. Before she knew it she was standing over that tiny bundle of blankets that was Harry, bending down to pick him up. But, then she realized that he must be here for a reason, that Albus had wanted him to grow up here and not with her, that Lilly and James may have wanted Harry to come and live here if they died, that maybe, just maybe, his muggle relatives could offer Harry protection that she could not. She trusted that Albus knew what he was doing when he placed Harry here; so, with a heavy heart she kissed Harry goodbye one last time and whispered to him, "Always remember, Harry, the ones we love never truly leave us, there just out of sight for a bit. Your mum and dad will always be there for you". It was something that Albus had said to her after her family was killed by Voldemort. They seemed like empty words, but they were the best she could manage, and she felt that she should leave him some glimmer of hope to cling to over that next ten years. Then she remembered that Harry was a baby, and probably didn't understand her at all. She said a silent prayer to Lilly and James, promising them that she would look after their son the best that she could, and then she disappearated.
For the next ten years, Minerva made good on her promise. She visited Little Whinging occasionally to get a glimpse of Harry, never speaking to him, but seeing that he was as well as possible just the same. She was never satisfied with what she saw, but, she reminded herself, he was alive and safe in the muggle world, and that was the best that she could hope for.
June 5, 1996
Nearly sixteen years had passed since Harry had been left on the doorstep of number four. Harry had grown considerably since then, he had faced many dangers and triumphed over all of them. Minerva was very proud of him, he had surpassed all of her expectations; she felt very maternal towards him, more so than her other students, but she never let it show, not to him at least. Albus, However, was a different story.
"Albus, do you really think it is wise to take him on this 'mission' or whatever it is?", asked Minerva crossly. She didn’t like the idea of Harry risking life and limb yet again to help Albus on a mission that he could do alone. Not that she was sure he could do it alone, he had never told her what he left the castle to do, or what he was teaching Harry in their private lessons. She knew that it must be important, but she still didn't like it.
"Yes Minerva, I need Harry's assistance in some matters tonight", responded Albus calmly
"But, can't you take someone else, someone from the Order?"
"No, I'm afraid I can't. It must be Harry", responded Dumbledore. Sensing that she was about to argue he continued, "I promise that I will keep him safe". "Furthermore", he said, "I will need your assistance guarding the castle tonight. No need to worry.", he said seeing the look on Minerva's face, "It's just a precautionary measure".
"Very well, I will see you later then, Albus", she made to leave
"Just one more thing Minerva", Albus added," Harry is the best hope we have, and we must trust in him fully. Also, trust in Severus Snape, he really is on our side"
"I will Albus", Minerva said, "Good luck tonight". And with that she Headmaster's office with a light feeling of foreboding.
June 6, 1997
Minerva looked out of the window in the head's office, the early morning sunlight was slowly painting the ground a multitude of beautiful colors. With the sun shining off of the lake, it was truly a beautiful sight to behold, but Minerva was too consumed with grief to really see the simple wonder of it. She couldn't understand how it had all happened. Albus Dumbledore, the greatest man to ever live, the only one who she ever really loved, was dead, dead at the hands of Severus Snape. His last words to her before they parted for the last time were telling her to trust Severus Snape, and mere hours later he murdered him. Tears welled in her eyes as she thought of the night before, how she had sent for Snape to ask for his assistance in the battle. It was her fault that Albus was dead, she had as good as killed him herself. She sank slowly into a chair in front of the desk, and she cried like she had never cried before. More than fifty years previously, she had sat out in the pouring rain and cried because Albus would never love her. The rain had washed her clean on that occasion, gave her a new prospective on Albus, but there was nothing but sunny skies today and Albus was truly gone this time, there was no changing it.
As much as she hated to think it, she was Headmistress now, and it was her duty to address the students at breakfast and explain to them what had happened. She composed herself and set off to the great hall to meet her students
May 5, 1998
Hogwarts castle was truly silent again for the first time since that great battle two nights ago when Lord Voldemort was finally defeated. The battle had been hard won, however; many lives were lost and much damage was done. Minerva had watched countless people, several of them students under her care, die right in front of her. The memories were still fresh in everyone's minds and the cries of mourning and celebration had echoed through the destroyed halls of the castle for days. But, now all of the mourners had left, the injured healed, and the fallen buried. The ruined castle seemed very empty to Minerva because so many who had called this place home had perished in the battle. Severus Snape, who had really been on their side, had fallen at the hands of Voldemort himself, Aurora Sinistra the Astronomy teacher, had been killed by Bellatrix Lestrange right in front Minerva, Her dear friend Filius Flitwick had been killed by Dolohov , and Septima Vector was also among the dead. She had just finished speaking with the parents of the last student to die in the battle. It had broken her heart to write the letter to Mr. and Mrs. Creevey explaining that their son had died in a battle of a wizarding war. The Creeveys were muggles, and their knowledge of Voldemort was minimal, so it was an especially terrible shock to learn that their oldest son had been killed in battle. She felt horribly responsible for the deaths of all of the students, she had been the one who allowed them to stay and fight if they were overage, and it was she who failed to realize that several underage students had managed to sneak back in. The weight of all of her loss and regret seemed to crush her as she walked blindly out into the grounds. Before long she found herself in her favorite spot near the bushes on the shore of the lake. She was feet away from Dumbledore's tomb; Minerva wished that her old friend was still here to help her, she had never needed his advice more. Her grief and remorse overpowered her and, without warning, she was sobbing her heart out by the lake once more. When she had no tears left to shed she steadied herself with a few deep breaths and looked out over the lake. She tried to think of what Dumbledore would have said to her if he were here, and then it came to her, 'The ones we love never truly leave us'. Dumbledore had said this to her several times during the first war against Voldemort, and she herself had said it to Harry Potter when he was a baby. She finally realized that it was true, that she still loved all of those who died, and she still held them close to herself deep within her heart and memories. The sun shined off of the water, and on the lakes glassy surface she saw the reflection of the battered castle. She had had her chance to cry, and now it was time to start rebuilding all that had been destroyed. Minerva walked up the sloping lawn towards the castle and saw Pomona Sprout, her eyes too were red and swollen as though she had been crying.
"Hello, Pomona. I was just about to go and see what can be salvaged from the castle, would you care to join me?"
"Yes I would", she replied sadly
"How are the green houses?"
"Awful, all that I could save were a few honking daffodils", Pomona said bitterly
"What of the Transfiguration department? Although I suppose that the Head's study would be your concern now?"
"The office seems to be unharmed so let's go and have a look at my classroom."
The Transfiguration room was in ruins, one wall seemed to have been blasted away and most of the desks seemed to fallen through the hole and down to the grounds below. Shredded books and papers were strewn everywhere and her desk seemed to have half fallen through a gaping hole in the floor, spilling her papers off of the edges. The rest of the castle was quite as bad, the top half of the Astronomy tower had fallen into the courtyard bellow, and the brass telescopes glinted in the rubble bellow. They Found Madam Pomffery in the ruins of the hospital wing and helped her clean up the spilled potions that were smoking gently on the floor. The staff room was quite as bad, all of the furniture lay in splintering heaps while the stuffing from an armchair was strewn across the floor like new fallen snow. They finally reached the Charms room; it alone seemed to be unharmed.
"It's a pity Filius isn't here to teach in here anymore", said Minerva sadly before both women dissolved once more into tears for their fallen friend. Finally they shut the door on the room and returned to the great hall.
Once they arrived they saw that Professors Slughorn and Trelwney, Madams Pomffery and Hooch, and Hagrid waiting for them. They discussed the damages and possible means of fixing them. It all seemed utterly hopeless.
"What's the plan from here Minerva?" Slughorn asked
Minerva looked around and saw that everyone was looking to her to lead, because this time she was really in charge. She wasn't just filling in anymore, she had to take charge for real this time. She hesitated for a split second and then said, "We'll start rebuilding tomorrow. We can place an ad in the daily prophet and get volunteers to assist us. God knows that we'll need all of the help we can get if we're to be ready to open again come September". And on that hopeful note, they began to rebuild their home and their lives.
**J.K. Rowling owns all characters and locations