She sees Harry Potter in her dreams. She has since before he was born, and she supposes she will until well after he's out of her care. But lying in St. Mungo's hospital, Minerva McGonagall does not dream. She does nothing but sink slowly in and out of consciousness. When she feels the pull of the real world, her chest aches, aches like nothing she has ever felt and so she lets her self slip back down into the muffled warmth of her own self-imposed lull in her recovery. She does this until, finally, Albus comes.
Minerva was a first year when Albus was a new professor and so their ages are not astronomically far apart. She has seen him age, though, and she knows that power does this. When he comes for her, she tries to fight it, but his hand on her soft belly brings a sort of soft warmth and the pain starts to subside and she realizes that while some of it was the four curses hitting her at once, most of it was heartbreak. Albus has been gone far too much this year and she has missed him.
"Harry Potter," she says, but it's a question all the same.
"The boy has lived," he says and she sits up slowly, and searches for her glasses though she doesn't really need them unless she's reading.
"That's all the boy seems to do," she says. She almost asks him to turn his back while she dresses but it seems silly, after all these years. Her breasts sag and she feels old and broken.
"He does it well."
And she concedes by saying nothing. They walk out on to the street trying not to look to conspicuous but his pants are a color that reminds her of vomit and she's still banged up and bruised and walks with a cane. The ministry has provided a car and they only have to walk around the corner to get there but sliding into the back seat she is already exhausted. Dumbledore's hand on her back gives her strength.
The driver is someone she doesn't recognize and there are no introductions. The roads to Hogwarts twist and turn and she sleeps with her head against the window. Outside the sun shines and she expects the school to be as she left it. Students taking final exams, NEWTs and OWLs but the lake steams with heat and the castle is empty of youth. Most of the faculty goes away for the summer. Only a few have wives and none have children. Minerva never married, though she was asked once. His name was Alistair but she didn't love him and she supposed that she had loved Albus once and grown old waiting for a man who had too much to give to spend energy on love. Now, she loves him for the wizard and leader he is, not for the boy with the smooth face and eyes the sparkled like the sea.
"Minerva, we've arrived." He takes her bags and the car disappears and they walk up to the castle in silence. "I'll have the elves send you up something."
She nods and he swishes away. He was never very good at goodbyes. She lies down on the quilt that her grandmother made and the gold thread it was stitched with still sparkles in greeting. The pictures wave a silent hello and when the food arrives, she sets it aside and falls asleep.
The sun is rising when she wakes. She sends an owl to Potter, telling him she is out of the hospital. She knows he will have already heard and she has no idea why she sends a note to Harry at all but the dreams have been coming more frequently now and while she doesn't quite miss him, she feels better when he is near.
She's never had a dream about Neville Longbottom and that's how they knew that Harry was the one. Lily was pregnant and she was already dreaming about his green eyes and messy hair and scars and prophecies. She has no Seer blood in her family and she doesn't believe that she is one herself. She doesn't know why she dreams about him, but she does.
A letter comes back and it is longer than she expected, having expected nothing at all.
Thank you for your letter. I'm relieved to hear you're out of St. Mungo's. Ron said he'd heard that Dumbledore was going to retrieve you and I'm glad it's true. I'm at the Dursley's still. My birthday is in three weeks, I think I get to leave after that.
I miss flying the most. After Umbridge's lifelong ban of Qudditch, I feel rusty. I love my firebolt but I miss my Nimbus 2000. Somehow it felt more mine.
My uncle is home. I'd better send Hedwig off, he hates her.
She takes the note to meals with her, holds it in the pocket of her robes. Albus keeps his hand on her arm whenever they walk together. They take daily walks around the lake, the water rippling with the giant squid's movements. The week after Harry's birthday, he's back at 12 Grimmauld Place and she asks Albus if she is needed for the Order. He says he is going there in the evening and when she arrives at his office ready to go, he doesn't ask any questions.
They stay for dinner and Molly makes chicken. The conversation is lively but she is quiet and she tries to just enjoy the moment. She has Albus on her left who keeps his hand on her lap under the table. On her right is Lupin who is looking like a full moon is near. Across the table is Harry and she has written to him four times and he's written back. For his birthday, in her pocket, she has the snitch that his father caught in his seventh year that he won the house cup with. She's had it for ages and she thinks maybe he will enjoy it.
She is tired, again, and the children have gone upstairs to bed already when Albus tells her it's time to go. She walks upstairs carefully with her cane and knocks lightly on Harry's door. There is no response and so she opens the door and both Harry and Ron are sprawled out asleep in the muggy heat of the room. She walks in and sits on the edge of his bed. His skin glows white in the moonlight and she wishes that she could hold him to her, that she could hug him and it would not be awkward or strange. She feels as if Harry belongs to her somehow, though she knows she has no more claim on him than anyone else. They are just dreams and dreams, she knows, aren't real.
"Harry, wake up," she whispers with a hand on his shoulder. He moans; rolls over and she gives him another shake. He has to rub his eyes, yawn, and put on his glasses before he recognizes who she is.
"Professor McGonagall?" he says thinking he's in trouble already and the term hasn't even started.
"Happy birthday, Harry," she says, "I have something for you." She reaches inside her robes and pulls out the old snitch which isn't as shiny or fast as it was when his father caught it but he takes it.
"Yes. The one your father caught when he won the house cup in his last year. He was a star but you shine ever brighter, Harry."
"Thank you. For writing to me, too. It gets lonely at the Dursley's and Ron and Hermione write but it's not the same, for some reason. Thank you for telling me about your dreams."
"I know it must have been hard for you to hear about Neville. I wanted you to know there was no doubt."
He lets the snitch go and it hovers for a few moments and then takes off around the room. It isn't long before it flies over head and he reaches up and snatches it with ease.
When she exits the room, Albus is standing there, waiting.
"It doesn't do to fall in love with the boy, Minerva," he says quietly.
"Says you," she snaps back, realizing that he is right, in some way. Back at Hogwarts, she says to him, "I never wanted a family or a child. But a nephew would have done and I suppose that I fancy Harry to be something like that."
"You did want a family," he points out.
"Well, yes. But you didn't," she says and chuckles slightly. "I didn't want a family with anyone else."
"I'm sorry." He is, she knows, but not for the choice he made.
She insists on teaching when the term starts even though she moves much more slowly and Hogwarts has too many sets of stairs between her chambers and her classroom. Severus makes her potions for improved energy but she is old and her body is tired and she thinks she'll retire when Harry graduates. Harry walks her to and from meals though she's never asked him to. She slides her bony arm through the bend at his and he doesn't complain about the pace. He chats about Quidditch, about potions class, about Ginny Weasley, and about honor. Harry chatters on and Minerva listens and doesn't say much. Students respect her but few hardly talk to her like this and she enjoys it. On occasion, she invites him into her office for tea, but not every time.
As usual, Harry stays at school for the winter holidays and Minerva does too. On Christmas eve, Minerva eats with Albus, Harry, Severus, and Ginny Weasley who declared that she was not going abroad with her family when it mean she would have to share a space with Ron and the twins and that was just as well for Harry because Minerva knew that he fancied Ginny. Little mousy Ginny Weasley has grown up beautiful, Minerva would have to be dead not to see it. Harry is completely enthralled in the way the light shines in her red hair and Minerva almost leans over to wipe the drool from his mouth. When Ginny talks, though, people listen. She is funny and animated and smart and even Severus laughs at one of her jokes before he catches himself and tries to hide it in a fit of coughing. Minerva hopes Ginny can make Harry happy.
She feels bad that she likes him so much. Everyone likes Harry Potter. She wishes she could find some diamond in the rough, some quiet attention deprived wallflower to dream about but in her sleep she sees scars and unruly hair and little else these days.
By the end of term, Dumbledore tells her that he's sick.
"No, we're just old, Albus," she jokes but he doesn't smile back and she swears that she feels her heart stop. "How sick?"
"How does the title Headmistress sound?" he asks and she can't imagine her life with out him; to her it is unfathomable that there would be a time when he was not there.
"It sounds awful," she says, touching his face with her hand, his beard soft. "I accept." The next year, Harry's last as a student and her first as Headmistress, she moves into to Dumbledore's Head chambers and he never bothers to move out. No one says anything, though, and she wonders if anyone even noticed. The quarters are spacious and she just puts her bed in one of the rooms and they have tea together and live like roommates or best friends but not like lovers because theirs is the relationship that was to never be and they are too old, sick, and fragile for the excitement of romance.
In her second year of being Headmistress, she dreams of Harry's death and the same week, Dumbledore doesn't come out for tea in the morning. She waits an hour, then knocks on his door and pokes her head in and quickly realizes that he's never going to wake up. She doesn't know who to get or what to do so she slowly limps her way down from the top floor to the dungeons at 5:30 in the morning to tell Severus because he won't go making a fuss.
"It's early," he says but she suspects he never sleeps.
"Albus is dead," she says because what good is beating around the bush in matters like these? She gets a little jolt of satisfaction when she sees genuine surprise flit across his features.
"Really?" is all he can come up with but then he snaps into action and by mid-morning his body is in a casket on the Express to London where it will be dealt with and she has the unfortunate responsibility of explaining why he's not at her side during breakfast to the students.
At his services, she finds Harry in the crowd who looks like he's been crying.
"You're being careful, right?" she asks him.
"I had a dream about you," she says. "Stay away from the ice."
She can still see his body slipping through the crack in the ice, his silver Muggle skates coming from beneath him, his body blue and lifeless floating in the cold. She thinks it's a stupid, pointless death for him and will simply not allow it.
"Okay," he says and decides not to go to northern Scotland later in the week with Hermione, Ron, and of course, Ginny Weasley who is always at his side.
"What are you doing these days?" she asks even though she knows because he writes her nearly every week.
"Still nothing. People like to pay me to come speak. At schools, ministry functions, private organizations." He shrugs. "I guess I should find a real job at some point. I can't keep on accidentally saving the world forever." They both chuckle.
"Well, come work for me," she says and he thinks about it for less then a second before he agrees.
"Defense against the dark arts?" he assumes arrogantly but she laughs and shakes her head.
"No, I think I shall finally give that position to Severus," she says. "You, boy, you will teach Quidditch."
And so it goes. He becomes the head of Gryffindor and Severus actually cracks a smile for the first time in years and when Severus and Harry learn to get along the fierce rivalry between Gryffindor and Slytherin calms down a bit and the school is the most harmonious it has been in decades.
At night, she misses Albus and she sleeps in his bed instead of her own. She dreams of being a cat all the time, prowling the castle and leaping from the highest most point of the castle and still landing at her feet. She sees Harry Potter in her dreams but he isn't dying anymore and it's a start, to see him live a normal life. She misses Albus but she thinks he was wrong. It suited her just fine to fall in love with Harry Potter.