Holy CRAP everybody! I can't believe it, but we're at the end of this first volume!
Thank you to all of my wonderful readers & reviewers - if you haven't said hi yet, please do so I can thank you properly! I'm definitely planning on making a Volume II to this (for lack of a better word) biopic. Give me some time to get the oneshots together and map it out, and stay tuned. I'll be back soon. :)
Love you guys!
15 August 1982
Minerva had never felt so strange in all her life. Here she was, at Hogwarts, in the place she had called home for nearly all her life, and yet she couldn't seem to calm down enough to find anything familiar or reassuring in her surrounding. Even her niece and her sisters-in-law, who were buzzing around her room while she sat in front of the vanity mirror in her dressing gown, barely registered in her peripheral vision. Minerva was staring blankly at her own reflection.
"One hour," chirped Kate, coming up and putting her arms around Minerva. She pecked her cheek. "Oh, at least try not to look ashen, Minerva, you're going to terrify poor Elphinstone."
"Aunt Minerva, what do you think of my dress?" Isobel asked delightedly, hurrying away from Meg, who had been adjusting the hem with her wand.
Minerva faced her and smiled faintly as she twirled in her little lavender sundress, her dark hair flying.
"Come back here, miss," Meg called, holding up her wand. "I've not finished with you yet."
Isobel beamed as she hurried back to her mother. It took Minerva a moment to realize that the tugging sensation she was experiencing on the back of her head was Kate, undoing the knot Minerva had just finished fastening.
"Every day I see you, I see this. This is your wedding, and it calls for something a little different," Kate said, meeting her eyes fiercely in the mirror. Minerva's stomach gave a heave, and she shut her eyes, feeling sick, but allowed Kate to do what she wished without protest.
"There," said Kate, resting her hands on Minerva's shoulders after almost ten minutes. "Take a look, dear, tell me what you think."
Minerva opened her eyes. Kate had gathered all of her long, black hair to one side, curled the ends gently, and fastened it with a clasp decorated with small white wildflowers. Minerva hadn't realized how long her hair had gotten—it was practically at her waist, and she couldn't remember the last time she had had a moment to trim it.
"There," said Kate. "You're perfect."
"I—I'm too old for all this," Minerva said in a strangled voice, looking around at her. "I'm making a fool of myself, what—"
"Isobel, dear, wait outside," said Meg quietly, giving her a little push towards the door. "Don't touch anything, and don't go anywhere." Isobel hesitated, but did as she was told, looking worried.
Once they were alone, Minerva turned around in her chair and faced Kate and Meg. "What in God's name am I thinking? I'm fifty years old, I—"
"You're forty-six," Kate cut her off gently, taking her hands. "And you're thinking that you've found someone you love, and you want to marry him."
"That's another thing, what could he be thinking? Has he met me?" Minerva demanded.
Meg looked like she was trying not to laugh. "Don't be a goose, of course he has. And he loves you. Elphinstone is a wonderful man, Minerva," she said.
"From the way you used to talk about him, I always thought that if we ever got to do this—get you ready for your wedding, I mean, like you helped us get ready for ours—that you'd be getting married to him," Kate smiled.
Minerva blinked. "R-really?"
"You've been in love with him for years," Meg said, waving a hand. "It just took you a good long time to figure it out."
"I must be mad," Minerva groaned, covering her face with her hands.
"You're not mad, you're you. And he wouldn't love you as much as he does if you were anything less," Kate told her. "Stand up, Minerva—that's it." She took Minerva in one arm, and held the other out for Meg, who came and embraced them both as well. "You're our sister, and we are so happy for you, love."
"So if you think there's a speck of a chance that you aren't going down that aisle, you really have gone mad," Meg assured her. "We'll carry you, if we have to." Minerva laughed at last and hugged them both.
"Thank you," she said. "Speaking of which—is Mother here?"
"She's with Rob and Malcolm, out on the lawn," Meg assured her. "She said she didn't feel up to climbing the stairs."
Minerva nodded, feeling quite sure that her mother was more anxious about returning to Hogwarts than taking the stairs. She looked down at her feet.
"Let's get your dress on," said Kate bracingly, going to the Madam Malkin's bag she had brought with her. She opened it up and showed Minerva the dress.
"Oh, my goodness."
It was a long, cream-colored dress, with just a little bit of a train, but it looked light and airy, perfect for the warm summer day. The sleeves were flowy, a faded gold color, and made of the sheerest, finest gossamer fabric she had ever seen. The long, floaty skirt was separated from the modest collar and shoulders by a golden flower-patterned bodice.
"This is too much, Kate," she said softly. "Far too much—I'm only wearing this once—"
"That's why it has to be special," Kate replied firmly. "Now, on with it."
Once the dress was on, Kate and Meg stepped back to admire their work.
"Merlin's beard, look at her figure," Meg said enviously, and Minerva blushed. "I'd kill to have that back, after three children."
"There's a little bit of color!" Kate laughed, kissing her cheek.
"Wait—we need final approval," Meg said, holding up her hands. She went to the door and let Isobel in. "All right, girl, what do you think of your aunt?"
Isobel stopped and stared at Minerva, her mouth hanging open slightly. She began to smile. "You look like a queen," she sighed happily.
Minerva smiled, and Isobel ran into her arms.
"All right," said Meg gently. "Let's get you both downstairs. Everyone's waiting. Minerva, your glasses. Don't look at me like that, you can go without for a few hours."
"I won't be able to see anything," she said, even as she took them off. Meg scoffed in disbelief and placed them on the vanity.
"Well, that's probably for the best, I'm afraid we've done a dreadful job at decorating," Kate replied.
Minerva rolled her eyes as all four of them walked out together, Isobel clinging to her hand. They reached the lawn on the south shore of the lake, not twenty yards from where Elphinstone had proposed, within minutes. Minerva could barely remember the walk; had Meg or Kate been talking? Had she been talking? Suddenly, she couldn't remember. Her heart was racing in her chest.
Hagrid had set up a dozen chairs in front of a simple wooden altar for the ceremony, but the entire scene was illuminated beautifully by the burning gold of the setting sun.
Elphinstone and was chatting amiably on the altar with Albus, who was dressed in robes of deepest blue threaded with silver. Hagrid stood nearby, talking with Filius Flitwick, Pomona, and Alastor Moody, whose magical eye was spinning wildly as he leaned casually on his staff, obviously keeping track of every move that every guest made. Pomona waved enthusiastically when she spotted Minerva.
Her nephews were sitting with Mother, and Malcolm and Robbie, both wearing old kilts of Dad's, were chatting with Augusta and Herbert Longbottom. Augusta noticed Minerva's arrival, and gave her a small smile. Minerva felt a lump rise in her throat and nodded warmly.
"All right," Meg said, beaming. "This is where we leave you. Isobel, you're ready?"
"Ready!" she said excitedly, still holding Minerva's hand. "But I need a minute with Aunt Minerva. It's important."
Meg frowned, but Minerva gave her a nod. "All right." She took Kate's arm. "We'll get your mother."
They walked away, and Minerva faced her niece, bending down in front of her. "What is it, Miss Isobel?" she asked, smiling.
Isobel grinned. "I just wanted to tell you that I'm really, really glad you're getting married," she said, turning pink. "I really want you to be happy, and I think Uncle Finn is really great."
"He's already got you calling him that, hm?" Minerva laughed, smoothing back a bit of Isobel's hair. Then, something occurred to her. She pulled off the silver figure-eight ring she wore on her right hand. "Your granddad gave me this, Isobel," she said. "It might be a bit big for you now, but I think he'd love it if his favorite granddaughter got to have it after me." She smiled as Isobel tried the ring on, her eyes huge.
"R-really?" she asked.
Minerva nodded, and Isobel beamed. "I love you," she said, hugging her tightly.
Minerva swallowed hard and hugged her back. "I love you too," she murmured.
"Time to get your seat, lass," said Mother's gentle voice from close by.
Isobel pulled back and smiled. "Good luck," she whispered, kissing Minerva's cheek and running inside to find her mother.
Minerva straightened up and smiled, taking her mother's arm. "Are you all right?" she asked.
"I never thought I'd be back here," Mother confessed, shaking her head as she looked around. Then she smiled. "But I'm glad for the reason."
"Thank you for coming," Minerva said softly. "Thank you for—doing this," she said, gesturing to their linked arms.
"Oh, your dad would never have forgiven me if I hadn't been here to give you away," Mother told her, patting her hand, "but he would've been happier to do it himself."
"Thank you," Minerva said quietly, hugging her.
By now, the guests had all found their seats and were waiting expectantly. It was the silence that made Minerva look up in surprise, and she blushed when everyone laughed. Albus raised his wand, and a faint tune began winding through the air. Minerva smiled—and then she met Elphinstone's eyes.
He'd worn a kilt for her, out of the sheer goodness of his heart, but it was the way he was looking at her that was making her heart feel as though it was going to escape from her chest. It seemed like barely a second before they were in front of the altar; Mother was kissing her cheek, and hugging Elphinstone, and Albus was speaking, and all Minerva could do was gaze into Elphinstone's soft hazel eyes, lost in the pounding of her heart in her ears.
And then, at the end, when he leaned in to kiss her, she closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around him—and he lifted her off her feet. She laughed as the guests came swarming around them, clapping and congratulating them. He set her down again, but kept his arm around her as they greeted their friends, and she held just as tightly to him.
"So," said Minerva, as they walked hand in hand down the main drive, through the Hogwarts gates. "To London tonight, and the Isle of Skye in the morning?"
"This is why I shouldn't trust Meg with any plans, I knew she'd tell you what I was doing," Elphinstone replied, shaking his head. He had changed out of his kilt, and Minerva out of her dress. She carried her old carpetbag full of clothes for the honeymoon in her free hand. The other was holding Elphinstone's tightly.
She leaned in and kissed his cheek. "But how would I have known what to bring, if I didn't know where we were going?"
"I don't think I reckoned on marrying your whole family. I had six chances to reconsider," he said, shaking his head.
"Too late, now," she chuckled, as they turned onto High Street in Hogsmeade. "Thank you," she added.
"For not reconsidering."
"Well, lucky for me, I did reckon on you being stubborn." Elphinstone pulled her by the hand down a small alleyway, grinning as he wrapped his arms around her again and kissed her, pressing her back to the outside wall of the closed-up shop.
"We'll never get to London at this rate," she said, when they had pulled back from each other. She could feel her cheeks flushing.
"Well, so much the better," Elphinstone shrugged, bending and picking up her carpetbag. He continued to walk down the alley, away from High Street.
"Where are you going?" she laughed, starting to follow him.
"Perhaps you ought to follow me and find out!" he called over his shoulder.
Minerva frowned, bewildered, but hurried after him and took his hand. "Wandering the streets after dark, Elphinstone, doesn't seem like a particularly good idea to me…"
"I thought we agreed on Finn," he called back to her.
"You agreed! Just because you've got the children calling you by a nickname—what's this?"
Elphinstone pointed to a house a little ways up the lane from where they stood, which was ringed with a low stone wall. It was a small cottage with a shingled roof and white-framed windows with flowerboxes. The windows were all lit up; whoever lived there was still very much awake. "What do you think?" he asked.
"I think we're disturbing the neighbors," Minerva replied.
"I meant about this house," he told her, coming to a stop before the little white gate. "What do you think of it?"
"Well—it's nice, I sup—oh, now, wait a moment," she said, putting a hand over her mouth. "You—Elphinstone Urquart, you didn't."
He shrugged. "You hate London. I'm retiring in December, so it's just three months of taking the Floo to work. If there's ever a time to settle down and buy a house, Minerva, it's when you're married." He smiled and faced her. "Do you like it?"
"Do I—oh my God," she said faintly. "It's really ours?"
"And all our things have been moved in, too, Pomona helped me with yours after the ceremony," he said brightly. "She's quite good at faking a headache, isn't she?"
"You sneak!" Minerva gasped, pushing his shoulders. She faced the house again. "Oh, I can't believe it—I—oh, thank you, thank you." She threw her arms around Elphinstone and kissed him.
He smiled. "You like it, then?"
"I love it," she said softly. "And I love you. Thank you."
"I love you, too," he replied. Then, quite without warning, he bent and swept Minerva's feet out from under her.
"Oh! Oh, you must be joking." She gave him a disbelieving look as she clung to his shoulders. "This is archaic!"
"Well," he said, adjusting his hold on her and grinning broadly, "I'm afraid you've just married an old fool who adores the archaic."
Minerva gave a dramatic sigh, drew her wand from her pocket, and flicked it; the cottage door opened, and Elphinstone—Finn—carried her over the threshold.