: Of Morning and MourningAuthor
: Angsty, with a little romance.Word count
: Minerva wakes up early, and reminisces.Warnings
: Spoilers for HBP. AN
: Written for emcue
for the Albus Ficathon over at sweetsaddiction
Thanks to kethlenda
for the beta.Of Morning and MourningLet those deplore their doom, Whose hope still grovels in this dark sojourn: But lofty souls, who look beyond the tomb, Can smile at Fate, and wonder how they mourn.
---James Beattie, The Minstrel
The bed is empty when she wakes up from a restless sleep, sheets twisted like vines around her body. For a blissful moment she forgets what the day is, what she is to do, what is to happen. She runs her hand over the pillow next to her, feeling for warmth, for the impression of a head like a delicate stamp left in the soft butter-yellow pillowcase.
There is nothing there, of course, just a cool slide of bed sheets against her palm. The only thing left for her to do is rise from her bed and dress, and go and give honor to his memory despite the ache in her body that no amount of healing magic can ever dispel.
She will have to pull herself together and ensure that grief is not draped over her like some somber grey shroud, because she’s the Headmistress of Hogwarts and she does not have time to feel grief.
All she has is a precious few moments to herself, in the sun-washed bedroom she always shared with him, to remember.
To mourn, and perhaps even to weep, alone. “I don’t think you should go,” she tells him, running her hands over his back, feeling planes both familiar and beloved. He wears the wrinkles that cut a path through his skin—the marks of age, he calls them—with unmatched dignity and pride. She hugs him to her as she remembers how frail they all are, beneath the surface.
She’s loved him for years, ever since she was eleven and he was her Transfiguration teacher. Of all the smiles she’s ever bestowed upon anyone, the most precious are to him and always have been.
“I have to,” he said in that voice that reminded her of lemon drops and sunshine and sweetness. He presses kisses to her face and it makes her want to weep, because beneath it is the chance that he might not come back, and she tastes that on his lips, bittersweet.
“I know.” She will not cry, not while he can see her. At least, she tells herself she won’t, as tears rise beneath her eyes and threaten to make a liar of her.
She stares out of the window for a long time, watches as the sun rises and the preparations for his large state funeral are carried out. The sun glints off his white tomb—how depressing that she can see it from the window, but she can’t turn away. It’s like those old horror monster movies the Muggles made that Albus always loved, where the picture is distorted because you are forced to look through your fingers to see what happens next.
He would like that analogy, she thinks, and her smile peeks through for the briefest of moments, like sunlight shifting through rain clouds in a summer storm.
Minerva can change herself into a cat without the slightest thought that it is strange or amazing in the slightest, but the thought of him lying in that tomb, body cold and without life, seems to her unnatural. I’ll imagine he’s somewhere else, on vacation, perhaps someplace warm and sunny. He always did like the beach.
There is tea on the small table next to the window, and she nearly cries when she sees that the house elf only brought one cup this morning. She wonders what became of the other teacup; if is sitting alone and forlorn in the cabinet, missing its mate.
As she is.She’s known his body for years and yet this time feels like the first, when they were young, when it was all so new and exciting and just slightly forbidden. The headmaster and the Transfiguration teacher—yet the whispers and the smiles had been kind.
Or perhaps it was that in those days, everything had been brushed with the colors of new love; all light-shimmering colors like watercolors pressed delicately onto white canvas.
He likes to run his fingers down her face, call her Minnie with a slight smile as he knows she hates that name. She feels the touch of his fingers and thinks idly that if he’ll only come home safe to her, she’ll let everyone call her that, even her students.
She watches him intently, focused on the movements of their familiar dance, because she always has; she’s never closed her eyes in his arms. He asked her why, once, long ago, and she smiled and wrapped her arms around him and kissed him soundly.
“Because then I might miss something.”
For a selfish moment she thinks of missing the thing entirely; how much has she sacrificed for this place, that she must give up the one moment of mourning that can be purely hers? For she’ll be the Headmistress today, and it will not be proper to allow the grief that presses against her to flood outward, breaching the dam of her reserved and proper appearance. She must not let the students see how upset she is; she will have to be strong, for their sake.
The sun shines bright and his tomb glitters with falsely cheery whiteness, but she knows very well what will follow. Days of impending death and a growing darkness so drenching that it threatens to swallow them whole, and the only bright spot will be moonlight glinting off bones left from the monster of Voldemort’s insanity.
Minerva cannot think about that, not now. It is too much to consider in the quiet hush of her room; Albus’ death, Voldemort’s rise, the ghoulish sparkle of the Dark Mark rising over Hogwarts. How many more funerals she will have to attend; students, parents, colleagues, before that madman is finally stopped?
She thinks of Severus and shudders, icy fingers of dread sneaking beneath her sun-warmed skin. She is glad he is gone, because while Order of the Phoenix member Professor McGonagall knew the necessity of Snape’s plan, the bereaved Minerva would kill him for causing her such grief. A Gryffindor through-and-through.
All she can think of now is an empty bed, all she feels is the aching press of grief around her body, and her limbs are so heavy she doesn’t think she’ll manage to dress. Her feet drag as if they are made of lead, as if she’ll go crashing through the floor with each step.
Her clothes are neat and orderly, just as they should be. He used to toss his on the floor and she would scold him for it. She finds one of his nightshirts that she’d hung up in the closet, and she presses the fine linen to her face for a moment and inhales his scent, which clings lightly to the fabric.
An essence, a whisper; all she has left, now. Memories are beautiful things, can be captured in a pensieve, even, but they are glittering threads without substance; and that is hardly a comfort to her now. “Don’t cry,” he tells her, and the press of his lips beneath her eyes feels so loving and gentle that the tears she’d tried to so hard to dam fall anyway and bathe her cheeks.
“It is foolish, don’t you think? What can you possibly learn that you don’t already know?” She twines her fingers in his hair and remembers when it was auburn. It had taken years for it to turn as white as it is now, but to her it seems like only seconds.
“This is not going to end well, Albus. I can tell.” She does not want to sound like Trelawney, prophesying doom and gloom at every opportunity, but she cannot help it.
“Shh. Let’s not talk about it. I don’t have to leave for a while yet.” He touches her and she forgets, and she falls easily into the spell of his hands on her body, and she kisses him and tastes citron and zing, and something else, something darker and more desperate, something that makes her understand that he knows, and that…
When they told her that he’d been killed, she’d already known, because she felt it the moment it happened.
Oh, she’d been distracted at seeing the Dark Mark above the castle and with keeping the students safe, but there was a moment tucked away inside the madness that the truth of what happened broke over her like waves crashing over the prow of a ship, and for just a moment she’d felt like a sailor clinging to dear life on the deck and struggling not to be washed out to sea.
She’d pulled herself together, forced her heart to keep beating and her lungs to keep working, for the students. For Albus. Minerva would be damned if all he’d worked for would tumble and fall, just because he
had. She would protect the students, his legacy, until there was no breath left in her body.
And she would let her last thought be of him, if it came to that. He asked her once if they should get married, and she’d laughed at him. “Why on earth would we do that, Albus? We both live here, don’t we?”
He’d shrugged and gave her that smile that she always adored. “I guess you’re right, Minnie, but you’d be lovely in white.” He waggled his eyebrows at her.
She’d laughed and thrown a scone at him. “Oh, stop.”
He had a beautiful laugh, Albus, like windchimes tossed about in a light spring breeze, and there was never a moment when it could not make her smile.
She dresses in her usual style, hair tucked severely up in a bun. It is what they expect, of course, even though she does it a bit for him, too. He’d
always like it like that, because he liked to pull the pins out and watch it tumble slowly down her back and shoulders, like a mist drifting to ground. “And now, you become the lovely Minnie,” he would intone, and laugh at the look on her face.
She tucks her wand in her robes and settles herself at the table, avoiding looking at the empty seat across from her. The urge to pretend he is merely away is strong and tempting. Still, she has never before hidden away from the truth and she will not do so now.
She looks out of the window and wonders if his body is in there, already; she raises the tea to her lips and the unwelcome thought of this is the closest we shall ever come to having tea together again, beloved,
wafts through her mind as she stares at his tomb.
The tea gets caught in her throat and does not mix well with the burn of unshed tears. In fact, it tastes like tar in her mouth and no amount of sugar will ever make it sweet again.
The cup trembles in her hand; as she sets it on the table, it overturns and pours Earl Grey all over, staining the Irish lace table covering.
Minerva puts her face in her hands and cries. When she is with him like this she feels like he is truly hers; all the other obligations of his life fall away and they can be nothing more than two people in love.
“My lovely one,” he tells her, kissing her softly, and she smiles at him like the girl she used to be.
When it is over she lies next to him with her head on his chest. They fit together perfectly, comfortable in a way only lovers who have rested in each other’s arms for years can be.
“Albus, if something happens to you…” she can’t stand it anymore, her fingers curling on his chest as if she is trying to hold him to her.
He rubs his hands slowly up and down her arm, and puts his mouth in her hair and whispers something very, very softly, like an incantation.
She cannot speak, afraid that if she does, whatever magic he has just uttered will be reversed and thus not come true.
She thinks of his words again at the funeral, when the tomb is encased in fire. She has done so well, so far, though of course she cries because all of them do. Even if he was not her beloved, he was her friend, teacher, mentor…as he was to so many others.
The urge to close her eyes as the fire rises into the sky consumes her, but she remembers her words to Albus so many years ago.“I don’t want to miss anything.”
So she keeps them open.
And then she sees the phoenix, a splash of bright fire, red and orange streaking through the sky, accompanied by Fawkes’ mournful cry. Shivers rush over her body and she gasps a little, hand flying up to press weakly against her chest.
Minerva McGonagall dabs at the tears on her cheeks, hearing again his voice in her mind the night before he’d left with Harry, and the smallest of smiles graces her face. “I will come back to you.”
She watches the phoenix fly away high up into the sky, as if it is rising to rejoin the sun.
She believes him. ~Finis