Author's Note

This short story was originally written for the 2021 HP Het Community Mini-Fest. The prompt, "mind the gap," was from Milotzi.

Mind the gap between the train and the platform.

The disembodied voice startles Severus from his thoughts as the train doors slide shut behind him.

Mind the gap.

He's been haunting Muggle London to get away from his memories, but somehow, there are reminders of her around every corner.

The chip shop near Grimmauld Place where they stopped for a late nosh after one of those ridiculous meetings about one or the other of Potter's predicaments.

The alleyway off Leicester Square where he patched her up, frantically casting Healing spells to stanch her bleeding after she'd been in a skirmish with a group of Death Eaters.

And the endless admonitions on the Tube to mind the gap.


He didn't mind the gap.

Truly, he didn't.

Sure, he teased Minerva about it, but only because he was certain she understood the age gap between them wasn't an issue for him.

How could it have been?

Who else would have had him?

Minerva had him, though, and gladly. Generously.

And he had her.


He didn't mind the gap.

Until he did.

Until the day when he realised that she had . . . slowed . . . had been slowing for months.

Oh, her wit was as quick, her tongue as sharp as they had ever been, but her usual purposeful stride had, somewhere along the way, become more of a shuffle, and her magic was off.

At first, it was little things, and only with the most complex of spells: a Transfiguration gone slightly awry (he laughed the first time she tried and failed to coax a recalcitrant copy of Insights in Molecular and Cellular Transfiguration to translate itself from German to English), or an attempted reverse-transformation that left her with long whiskers he found both adorable and frightening.

As the mishaps spilled over into less taxing magic – a warming charm that dropped the temperature by ten degrees, an Accio that left the book she'd Summoned putting limply across the sitting-room floor instead of sailing swiftly into her waiting hand – he began to worry.

By the time he managed to coax (read: coerce) her into seeing a Healer, he already knew, if not the specific diagnosis, then the gist of it: she was old. They called it progressive magical senescence, but what it meant was, she was dying.

Minerva's reaction was predictably practical.

"We'll need to hire someone," she said. "Unless you want to move me to the Inverlochy Home for Ancient Mages when the time comes."

"Don't be ridiculous," was all he managed to say, and more waspishly than he intended. She smiled that infuriating, enrapturing smile of hers and said no more about it that evening.

He tried, and for a long time, they managed in their accustomed blissful solitude, but the time did come, all too soon for Severus, when she couldn't be left alone, even for a few minutes, lest her previously strong magic should momentarily reassert itself and set the cottage aflame or Transfigure the annoying neighbour child into a duck.


So yes, he decided, he minded the gap. The gap meant she would leave him – was already leaving him – alone to face the next thirty, or fifty, or, Merlin forbid, hundred years without the one thing that had made surviving the war bearable. More than bearable, actually.

He'd pushed it aside when she'd tried to bring it up after their affair became serious, and again when he'd opted to follow her to the cottage in retirement rather than (shudder!) take her place as Head of Hogwarts, as some foolishly expected.

She was older than him by decades, but it didn't matter, he had told her and himself. She was a vibrant, powerful witch, and likely to remain so for decades to come, he'd said. And so she had. The grooves of more than fifty years together, fifty years of challenging conversation, glorious sex, spectacular fights, and more affection and tenderness than he'd believed either of them capable of had worn themselves into him, and now he was going to pay for it all by missing it so goddamn much it was like a Cruciatus aimed straight at his heart.


Somehow the word got out. When the end was near, and Severus was exhausted, a relentless parade of Weasleys and Potters and Longbottoms came to the cottage to say their goodbyes and offer "help", as if he would let any of them spoon the mashed peas into her mouth or Vanish her wet clothes when she soiled herself. But she seemed to enjoy the visits, so he gritted his teeth and offered them tea, which he barely refrained from poisoning.

And after it was all over, after the agonising memorial service, and after he'd donated her clothes to the Witch Weekly Jumble, and after he'd taken his pillow and blanket to the spare room because he couldn't stand to look at their bed, much less sleep in it, he walked.

He walked the streets, first of Inverness, then of London, when Inverness proved too close, to get away from himself. He walked and wondered what he would do with the rest of his life. Without her. He walked and wondered if he recalled how to brew a Dreamless Sleep strong enough to become an Endless Sleep. He walked and wondered what she would say if he showed up beyond the Veil forty or fifty years before she expected him.

Before she'd slipped into the final sleep, she'd told him she expected him to live out his allotted years.

"I won't make you promise, Severus," she'd whispered, her voice papery and hair-thin, but steady. "You've been bound too often to promises made under duress. But I hope you will stay. You said long ago that the age gap didn't matter to you, but now you need to accept it and what it means."

He'd grasped her hand, and she'd surprised him by squeezing it.

She'd said, "I lived sixty-plus years before we came together, and some of them were very good years. It's your turn to have some good years without me."

He'd opened his mouth, but his brain could find no answer.

Her final words to him had been: "I'll expect a full report when I see you next."


Mind the gap between the train and the platform.

Where this train is bound, he doesn't know or care, but he does know now that he minds. Nevertheless, he'll keep travelling forward, because minding things has been part and parcel of his existence, with the remarkable exception of a pleasant fifty-year interlude when there had been less to mind.

At the next station, he steps off into his future, whatever it may hold.

And he minds the gap.


This work of fiction is based on characters and settings created by J. K. Rowling. All recognisable characters, settings, and plot elements are copyright © J. K. Rowling.

The author believes this work falls within the scope of the Fair Use Doctrine as a transformative work. For more information, see the Organization for Transformative Works.

All original characters, settings, and plot elements are copyright © 2021 Squibstress.

This work of fiction is available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.