Minerva McGonagall wasn't ill; she was simply old. Her doctor, young Grouchet, would say as much when he stopped in. "Nothing wrong with you, Professor, but time." Time. McGonagall had a lot of time, these days; she'd retired from her position as Headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry... even Dumbledore, in the end, hadn't been able to go on for ever, so why should she have expected to?
She had been unable to leave Hogwarts behind completely, though, and had taken a room in Hogsmeade. At first, she had walked to the Three Broomsticks everyday, but time had not been kind to her bones, and now, she didn't get out as often as she used to... not that she was ill; it was just a question of time.
Sometimes, she thought, she could almost see the flickering of light and darkness, as days ran away into the past, followed by nights, followed... One day, she stood under a tree, looking at it, seeing how green the leaves were in late summer. Was it late summer, already? Yes... there were children's voices from over the hill, and the crack of a bat, cheering.
Slowly, leaning heavily on her stick, McGonagall walked to the top of the hill, pausing just behind the ridge, watching without being seen. Cricket, they were playing. How strange, she thought. She hadn't seen cricket played since... how old had she been? Apollo, her older brother, with his great shock of blonde hair and his shoulders that had seemed as wide as the world to six-year-old Minerva.
Strange, how clear the memory was. Almost a ninety years ago, that had been, but she could remember it so clearly. She could remember Apollo laughing as he made his century... 139 not out, she remembered. How odd that she could remember that; could remember him picking her up and tossing her in the air, laughing, as the rest of the boys of the twenty-fifth highlanders had laughed. He was prickly, she remembered; his unshaven chin, his rough undershirt, the wool of his uniform kilt.
Apollo died at Tobruk. She'd looked it up on a map. That was before she'd gotten her letter; before she'd known she was a witch. How she'd wept when she learned the charm that would have saved her brother, how simple it was to turn a bullet, to make a bomb go someplace else instead. The charm that would have saved James... Minerva didn't know it.
She watched the children playing cricket. The boy batsman had the look of a Potter; the glasses, the red hair. She couldn't see from here, but she would bet he had green eyes. "Discipline is a delicate thing," Dumbledore had said to her, when she'd confessed to him that she didn't know what to do with James. "You must be firm, without crushing spirits." She'd taken that to heart; had made it her watch-word from then on. She wondered who this Potter boy was... James' great-grandson? Or great-great-grandson? How long...?
She smiled, remembering the good times, after Voldemort had finally been defeated. Dumbledore had retired, and she'd been made Headmaster. For a long time, there had been fewer and fewer children with magical aptitude. Then, suddenly, it had seemed like the Potters and the Weasleys had tried to reverse the trend without any other help. The castle had been full of red-headed cousins; it seemed that every class of Gryffindors and Ravenclaws had gone ginger.
"There are so many of them," Professor Coppersmith had complained to her, early in his first term as a Master at Hogwarts. "How do you ever keep them apart?"
"I knew their fathers," Minerva had said, "and their mothers. It is true that they all seem to be trying to out-do the family record for fecundity, but I see their parents when I look at them." She smiled, now, thinking about that. She thought of the Weasleys with the profusion of curls, most of whom had gotten themselves sorted into Ravenclaw. Their mother had been an excellent witch, brightest of her age; thank goodness they took after her, and not after their father.
The Potters, now... the Potters always seemed to go into Griffindor. They had paid for that; paid in terrible coin, over and over again. Minerva watched the boy batsman as he hit one for six, and she smiled, her eyes filling with tears as she thought of earlier Potters. The boy would be a good beater, she thought. He would be a first-class beater.