Title: Last Night of the Coven
Warnings: Monstrously angst-ridden.
Request by: duckface666
Challenge: Anything Minerva/Sybill.
Summary: Inspired by Seneca'sThe Trojan Women. Not everyone was killed when Hogwarts fell.
Do not mourn for happy Priam:
We are the captives; he is free.
Never on his neck will the yoke
of conquerors gall a noble spirit.
Hecuba, - The Trojan Women
They call us The Coven. I believe it's their idea of a joke. Just a handful of us here, prisoners in the wreckage of Hogwart's Great Hall, sleeping in cots where glorious tables, covered in food and gold and magic, once stood. The food they feed us, twice a day like clockwork, is no doubt heavily laced with potions to suppress our magic. It certainly isn't laced with flavor.
I know many of the women here. Chelsea McNair was a student of mine, some fifteen years back. I didn't even know she was on our side until they threw her in here with the rest of us. I am the only Order member left in the coven. The rest have been parceled out to Death Eater families, as housemaids and slaves, no doubt. If they were lucky. If they were low enough on the totem pole to not become an example to others.
I fear I shall not be so lucky. While my rank in this new Order was mostly honorary, my tenure as Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts will not go unnoticed when Voldemort's claw of justice finally turns my way. My loyalty to Dumbledore is well-known, and he will not allow the right hand of his greatest enemy to simply waste away her declining years as a scullery slave to Lucius Malfoy.
No, as galling as that sounds, I am certain that my fate will be even more gruesome than scraping dishes in the Malfoy kitchen.
It's quiet now. The rest of the women have gone to sleep, fitfully as it always seems, to dream of their sentencing. Many of us have been here months, prisoners as the Forbidden Forest burns outside the castle walls, blind and deaf to the news of the outside world. None of us knows the fates of whatever family and friends survived the carnage. None of us knows our own fate.
Except for her.
It's odd. The very potions that have stripped us of our magic seem to have loosed a latent talent in Sybill. The others won't go near her, not since she correctly predicted the morbid little stunt Lucius Malfoy planned for Ginny Weasley. Since the wedding of that poor doomed child to his dead son Draco, most of the women here have hesitated to let Sybill's newfound power of precognition sink its claws into them.
I don't bother with that drivel. I'm not afraid of my own death; it's been inevitable for years. I know Sybill can't hurt me now, and I bring her a bowl of stew from the common pot. She hovers near the edge of the Great Hall, draped in rags that once were brightly colored shawls, hiding from the meager light they allow us. Her hair, once wild and unruly, now hangs limply at her shoulders. Her glasses are gone; they were broken weeks ago, and no one had enough magic to repair them. She doesn't need them, even so. What she sees now doesn't require 20/20 vision.
I hesitate as I near her. "Sybill, it's Minerva," I whisper in low tones. It's better not to sneak up on her. She was always rather fidgety. But these days, she jumps at shadows on the wall, moaning in her sleep when she manages sleep, and fears noises none of us can hear.
"I've brought you some stew, dear." My tones are soft, softer than I ever imagined I would hear them address Sybill Trelawney. I called her a fraud, and for the most part I was right.
Now, as I watch her shivering in the nightmare of her own visions, I wish to the Great Mother herself that Sybill were still a fraud. She pulls away from me, terrified of my stooped form as I lower myself onto the floor next to her. "It's alright, girl. You've got to eat." I reach out gently, stroking her hair from her face. I'm the only one not afraid of touching her, and I smooth her hair down as best I can. My hands are like claws now; age has descended upon me with a vengeance. But I press onward, forcing her to eat, speaking meaningless words to force her away from this sad reality our lives have become. She eats a little, choking on the fatty meat, and drinks a bit of the water I've brought.
It's quiet here. Nothing but the sounds of women breathing, and of our own hearts pounding.
"I See for you, too," she whispers, leaning back into the shadowy corner she's made her own. "I See every moment of it."
"Nonsense," I whisper back, the skin on my neck jumping to attention at the sound of her words. "We both know you're a complete fraud." It's a nice little lie to distract us as we sit in silence, as we have for the last few nights, until she falls into a fitful sleep.
She won't let me tell her.
She's fallen asleep, as she has for the last four nights, protecting me.
She doesn't realize she's protecting me. She simply can't help it. Minerva was born to protect, just as some were born to paint and others were born to sing. And she has watched her charges, one by one, sent off to slaughter.
I understand her anguish. I was born to See, and for so many years my Sight was blinded.
She won't let me tell her. My poor, blinded, weakened Minerva.
Would that it were true, that her words were no longer sad ghosts of better times, whispered remnants of a former reality. Would that I were a fraud, that the end I See for her were just some delusion of my muddied vision.
She doesn't want to know, and I cannot force myself on her. Her hair has gone completely grey. She sleeps in my arms, or is it I who sleeps in hers? She holds me like a child, fiercely, when the others are asleep. In waking hours, she tries not to show favoritism. It's not her way, not when all eyes look to her for strength.
Our Hecuba, watching as Troy burns in the distance.
And who am I but the unheard prophetess, Kassandra reincarnate, who tells the truths where no one dares listen?
My hand reaches out to stroke her cheek. She has been kind to me, much kinder than I would have ever believed possible, back in the old days. Back before the end of life as we knew it.
We are Trojan women here, waiting for the conquerors to send us to our fates.
She will never see the shores of Greece, our Hecuba. I think she knows that as well as I do. She will die with Hogwarts, and soon, as a final warning to those who would oppose the Dark One. Dumbledore's fiercest supporter put to death for all to see.
I cannot blame her for craving blindness.
I, who prayed nightly to the goddess for Sight, would gladly turn back now, would cut this Vision from my eyes with a sharp knife for a moment of sweet innocence.
Minerva stirs under my touch. Her skin is soft, in a way only the aged can truly achieve, worn by the hand of time to a sweet pliant texture. She smiles up at me, and I kiss her smile. She draws in a deep breath, a look of understanding in her deep blue eyes.
I don't have to tell her.
I awake before the sunrise, before the others, before even the birds themselves. Sybill sleeps in my arms.
She's held me, kissed me, stroked my hair and skin.
On my last night on Earth, a moment of tenderness from a former enemy.
I watch her face, momentarily, as she sleeps. She is beautiful, in her own way.
I feel a sense of utter and complete calm, marred only by the knowledge that these women, these fine girls whom I have taught and trusted and protected, will not know the peace that will soon free me from this world.
I do not wish death for these women, these captive souls who somehow manage to find the strength to wake each morning. I wish freedom.
If I had the strength, I would free them myself. A sharp slit across the neck, perhaps, or a hard twist of the head.
But I am not the harbinger of freedom. I am just an old woman, waiting to die.
What should I say to them? That I'm not afraid to die? That I will not cower, and I will not crawl to my death? What good will my strength do them, with their uncertain futures of loss and servitude? Will they look back from their chains, and think, well, McGonagall died with grace, so I might as well live another day?
It's absurd. I don't want to be a martyr any more than I want to be an example. All I ever wanted to do was teach.
Poor Sybill. She wanted to tell me, to unburden her soul of the fate she knows awaits me. I could see it in her eyes, on her lips as they kissed my cheeks and mouth and forehead. She was kissing me goodbye, my unexpected friend, sending me to my freedom.
I look out over the Great Hall. They are still asleep, these women of the coven, still dreaming that the sun might rise on a happier world than on which it set. And superimposed over their forms I see years, decades, of feasts and friends and memories of happier days. My past. My hopes and dreams, faded to ghosts.
No, even the ghosts no longer dance here.
Goodbye, my friends, I think as I walk to the main door. A quick tap gets the guard's attention.
"Let's get this over with, then," I whisper to him through the grate they've installed.
He opens the door, just as the sun begins to rise.
It's better this way.