A/N: ACK! JUST when I thought I had finally satisfied everyone with an ending to the Ice-Cold Roses series, they ask for MORE! *grins* And I aim to please, so....I am going to make a brave attempt to write yet another sequel to the sequel of the sequel to....oh, nevermind. Read Running from the Rain before you read this - that will tell you what ELSE you have to read to understand. Enjoy!
Thirty-five year old Ron Weasley rubbed his temples with a sigh, then glared up at the blinding sunlight streaming through the window of the Transfiguration classroom. "Occludo." he muttered, and the blinds shut themselves.
He had been out of sorts all day. The whole week had been bad, actually, but today.....he sighed again and shook his head. Had it really been twenty years? Twenty years since that storm, twenty years since that dance of death in the rain.....
He remembered everything as if it were yesterday. The way she had whimpered at the lightening, her laughter as they twirled together in the downpour...the whispered vows of love she uttered as her dying breath. The funeral afterwards, the rose picture that he still kept in a frame in his office....and one other thing that didn't really seem to affect him until later; the disappearance of Professor McGonagall.
Looking back, he realized that her unexplained absence had been very helpful in providing him with his current job. Albus Dumbledore had taken over the position as Transfigurations teacher for a few years, then offered it to Ron after his gradutation. The next year, Dumbledore had passed away, leaving Hogwarts under the care of Headmaster Flitwick and Deputy Headmaster Snape. Teachers had come and gone, and after twenty years, no one had seen or heard from Minerva McGonagall.
"Strange." Ron thought, his mind off Hermione for the first time in a week. With just a short farewell note, the Professor had disappeared. If Voldemort had captured her, he would have used her for ransom.....besides, he was long gone. Harry had defeated the Dark Lord over a decade ago.
"Mr. Weasley, what are you doing here?" a voice asked, startling him from his thoughts. He looked up, brushing a lock of red hair out of his eyes. A shadowy figure, presumably female from the sound of the voice, stood in the doorway. A hooded cloak was draped about her, disguising her identity somewhat.
"Beg pardon, ma'am, I work here." he replied, rising from the desk. After a short pause, the figure nodded slowly. Ron frowned. "How do you know who I am, anyway?"
"Nevermind that. Where's Headmaster Dumbledore?" she asked, stepping into the room. The hood still shielded most of her face, but Ron thought he saw the glint of spectacles from within the shadows.
"Dumbledore's been dead for a good fifteen years. Professor Flitwick is Headmaster now." he said. Something was so familiar about this person....
A soft sigh emitted from the cloak. "I see." she said quietly, making her way towards the window. "Patefacio." she said absently, and the blinds flew open again. "Tell me, then.....who is still here from twenty years ago?"
Ron thought a moment. "Well, Madam Hooch retired a few years back, Filch finally died of old age....and Madam Pomfrey got killed acting as a nurse in one of the last battles against Voldemort." The figure flinched visibly, although her back was turned to Ron. He quietly began to inch closer, hoping to catch a glimpse of the face concealed behind the hood....he KNEW that voice from somewhere....
"Professor Sinistra was attacked by Death Eaters the night before Harry defeated You-Know-Who." he said, assuming that the wince had been because he had called Voldemort by name.
"Go ahead and say it, there's nothing to be afraid of." the figure hissed. Frowning slightly in puzzlement, Ron shrugged.
"I just thought...well, anyway. The only other staff member..." Here he gulped, shaking his head. "Well, a lot of the giants were attacked by Voldemort after they joined our side.....even the half giants...."
"They killed Hagrid." the figure interupted him. He nodded slowly, even though she couldn't see it with her back turned. "I never knew." she continued, seeming to talk to herself. "I haven't kept up with our world...there didn't seem to be any reason to, really. I...I didn't realize I would miss them...." she said quietly, her voice laden with emotion.
Suddenly, the tone triggered a faint memory, and Ron's mind flashed back to a time in his second year at Hogwarts. Hermione had been petrified by the basilisk....he and Harry were trying to sneak down to Moaning Myrtle's toilet, but they had been stopped by a teacher. They had used the excuse of going to visit Hermione, and the Professor's reply had been the same tearful voice...
"Professor?" Ron aked in disbelief. The figure slowly turned to face him, then removed the hood from her face.
"Yes, Ron. I came back." Minerva McGonagall said quietly. Besides the fact that time had creased several new wrinkles on her face, and her hair had become the same cloudy shade as her glittering gray eyes, she looked much the same as Ron had remembered her.
"But....but....what are you doing here? Where have you been the past twenty years?" he asked, astonishment evident in his voice. She smiled sadly and began to walk around the old classroom, taking in both the old and the new features.
"I'm here because curiousity and loneliness finally took their toll on an old woman." she replied, picking up a box of matches, half of which were still silver from the first year's attempt at Transfiguration. "And as for my whereabouts....I've been in the United States for the past two decades, living like a hermit."
Ron was silent for several moments, watching his former Professor reliving memories that her old classroom held. "Why did you leave?" he asked quietly.
She turned to face him, shaking her head. "I...it's not something I can explain.....I'm not staying, by the way." she added. "I just wanted to come see how things were."
Ron frowned again. "Where are you going to go?"
"I don't know." Minerva replied honestly, turning away again. "I'll find somewhere to go. Something to do."
"Well, you're staying here a night before you leave again. Everyone deserves to know what happened to you." Ron said stubbornly, folding his arms across his chest. The older woman smirked and nodded once in agreement.
"If you insist, Professor Weasley."
Minerva sighed contently as she climbed into her old bed. Nothing had changed in her quarters; Ron informed her that Albus hadn't allowed any of her things to be touched since her disappearance. The only change was an empty owl perch in the corner, but she hadn't really expected Fitzpickle to survive twenty years.
After those who remembered her had gotten over the intial shock of her return, they welcomed her back with open arms. Severus Snape greeted her with a smile much more warm that was customary for him. Even Sibyll Trelawny, her one-time enemy, had embraced her, tears brimming in her large, buggish eyes. Not many queries were made as to her recent whereabouts; she made it quite clear that she did not wish to discuss that aspect of her history.
She closed her eyes with a sigh, settling back against the pillows. They had missed her. They had cared about her absence. Maybe - just maybe - she could find a reason to stay this time.....maybe.....
It was Sibyll who found her the next morning, her face forever resting in a peaceful smile. Minerva's heart had stopped sometime during the night. She was finally home.
A/N: Sorry if you didn't like the ending....I just wanted some sort of closure to all this. As for her death....let's just pretend she had a weak heart and it gave out on her for some reason.