Hand and Heart
Summary: Minerva McGonagall has been Albus Dumbledore's right hand for more than half a century. Voldemort cannot cut off the head of the Order, but how much damage could he do by cutting off the hand—or cutting out the heart? Including an unhealthy dose of Slytherins Severus Snape and Aberforth Dumbledore, as well as short appearances by Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, and the rest of the Order. AD/MM, RL/NT implied.
Disclaimer: Nope, not mine.
Chapter One: Dangerous Discoveries
"Another whiskey, Abe!" the brown-haired wizard roared, waving his empty glass about wildly. Aberforth took no time in delivering another shot of Ogden's and helping himself to the man's remaining sickles. He would be surprised if the man was sober enough to even raise the glass to his lips. A small smile played upon his lips as he heard a soft crash and a loud curse behind him.
Back behind the bar counter, Aberforth glanced around the room dispassionately. At three in the morning, the only customers left were those too drunk to make it out. He would give them another half an hour to get themselves out of his bar, and then he would forcibly remove those remaining.
Twenty minutes later, all but one of his customers had gone home. A simple levitating charm dropped the drunken wizard in the centre of the street, and a few quick spells tidied up the room and closed the shutters. They would be arriving shortly.
A tiny 'pop' heralded the arrival of his brother, punctual as always.
"Aberforth." They stood together in silence. Aberforth took a moment to sneak an appraising glance at his brother—his brother, who had been on the run from the Ministry for a few weeks now. Physically, Albus was fine, but Aberforth could tell that the prolonged separation from his precious school was taking its toll. He seemed…tired. They were not trading terrible jokes or insults, and the usual air of mischief was missing. Order business had kept Albus from Hogwarts—and those inside the castle—for the last few days, and the result was the weary man before him.
A louder 'pop' this time, and Remus Lupin appeared in the room. "Hello, Aberforth," he said pleasantly. The young man looked up at Albus, and an expression of worry and distress flitted across his face. "Albus…" Lupin paused uncertainly.
"What is it?" Albus asked quickly. "Harry—"
"Harry's fine, Professor. It's Umbridge. She tried to remove Hagrid…he's all right," Lupin added quickly at the look on Albus's face. "But…" The young man broke off, looking up at Albus worriedly. A niggling unease settled over Aberforth, but he dared not put a name to the source.
"What happened?" Albus repeated in a low voice.
"One of the professors found out about Umbridge's plan. There were four Ministry Aurors trying to take down Hagrid when Minerva came running out…" Aberforth closed his eyes briefly. Oh, Minerva, you fool girl… "They didn't even have the courage to face her fairly!" Lupin choked, outraged. "The bastards shot at her—she didn't even have her wand out!" Suddenly recalling himself, Lupin paused. The odd look on Albus's face was obviously unfamiliar to the boy, but Aberforth knew. "Minerva took four stunners to the chest. She's at St. Mungo's now…She'll…she should be all right…" he finished hesitantly.
There was a dead silence in the room for a long moment, and then suddenly Albus moved. He snatched up the nearest barstool and flung it violently against the wall, where it shattered into a thousand pieces. Whirling around in a black fury, Albus moved to grab the next one, but Aberforth was faster. "Albus!" The air around them was crackling with a furious energy. Unable to reach another chair, Albus slammed his fist into the small table beside him, his hand breaking through two inches of solid wood. "Albus!" Aberforth shouted finally.
His brother snapped around, and Aberforth relaxed fractionally as a kind of wild sanity entered Albus's eyes. "St. Mungo's, Remus?" the wizard said softly, striding towards the fireplace.
"Albus!" Aberforth leapt forward to grab the man, grateful for the werewolf's strength as they held the wizard back. "You can't help her if you get caught," he reminded him loudly. "Minerva's a tough girl. She'll be all right." Feeling Albus's mad struggles slowing, Aberforth continued quickly. "And she'll be right angry with you, too, if she finds out that you risked capture to come and see her sick. You know she hates that. She's a tough girl, Albus. She'll be fine." Aberforth forcibly guided his brother into a chair and held him there.
"You can let go of me now, Aberforth," Albus told him scathingly.
Aberforth gave him a long look.
"I won't do anything stupid." Another hard look, and then Aberforth released his brother. Albus glared at him and Aberforth met his gaze squarely. Albus surrendered first. "I never should have left her there," he said quietly, staring at his hands.
"What would you have done? Taken her with you into hiding? Made her a criminal by association? One of you had to watch the students. You couldn't have known," Aberforth told him flatly.
"I knew that woman was insane." The tone of his voice left no doubt of which woman he spoke. "I should have eliminated her."
A sharp intake of breath from the forgotten younger man behind them drew their attention. They turned to him as one, only to find Remus Lupin gaping at them open-mouthed.
Aberforth chuckled. "In all your years at Hogwarts, you never noticed?"
Lupin blinked. "N…no…"
Albus glared at them both darkly. Lupin shook a little. Another brave Gryffindor, Aberforth thought dryly. The poor, clueless boy. Can't believe that the great Professor Dumbledore would kill a woman. Aloud, he said, "Albus has always been willing to do anything for the cause."
"Of course," Lupin replied hastily, glancing sideways at the named wizard.
And when it comes to Minerva, Albus has always been willing to abandon the cause, Aberforth added silently. The young man had discovered enough traumatic revelations for one day. "Go back and tell them that you've delivered the message. They're to keep a covert eye on Minerva, to ensure that no accidents happen to her. Keep the mutt in the house. I'll take care of Albus."
His brother glared at him, and Lupin hesitated. "Go, Remus," Albus ordered him wearily. "Thank you for coming."
Lupin straightened. "Yes, sir." He disapparated.
Albus let out a deep sigh and sank back into his chair, looking every one of his one hundred and fifty-five years. "Come on, Albus, let's get you to bed," Aberforth said gently. As he guided his brother upstairs and tucked him into bed, Aberforth reflected on the oddity of the situation. For the first time in fifty years, the two brothers had reversed roles, and though Aberforth found this rather alarming, he was also warmed by the thought of caring for Albus. Still, he knew full well that it was not his assistance his brother needed, as Albus's incoherent mutterings indicated. Even falling into a drugged, dreamless sleep, physically and emotionally exhausted, Albus's last thoughts were of her.
As the greatest wizard of the age surrendered to sleep upstairs, a dirty rat scrambled out from under the shards of the shattered barstool downstairs, shaking. The rat scampered out into the street, and then cut down an alleyway. A mangy cat, about to pounce upon dinner, yelped in shock as its intended meal transformed into an equally rat-like man and then suddenly disappeared.
Peter Pettigrew had news for his master.
A/N: So there's chapter one. They're turning out to be short chapters, don't know why. I wasn't sure if I should post this fic or not; it's not going the way I thought it would. Let me know what you think-if I ought to try chasing this strange little bunny down.