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Lament of the Wounded
By CEA
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Their eyes didn't break hold of each other for the longest time, his black, hers the brightest, clearest green he had ever seen. She was maybe fifty feet away from him, staring at him as though he were the strangest, most surprising, and most horrible thing she had ever seen. Then her wand was out, pointing clear across the space between him, directly at his heart.

She was tall, with raven hair and pale, pale skin; exactly, in every way there, as him. They were both thin; both favored black and green. Both were two of the most amazingly brilliant, talented people to walk this Earth in the last hundred years. Both held records in their times for NEWT and OWL scores, for their intelligence and accomplishments. But she was beautiful, remarkably so for her age, and he was ugly and wretched-looking, especially now. She was pure, and loyal, and kind to everyone; she always had been. And her entire body, graceful and tall and beautiful, was so thoroughly shaking with grief and rage that he felt, for a moment, a shattering feeling of hate for himself and this situation.

She was one of the few people he had ever truly loved, and she was pointing her wand at his heart, ready to kill him.

But he knew her too well for that, and so had Albus.

"Are you going to kill me, Minerva?" he whispered.

He could see tears building up in those green eyes. Minerva McGonagall had been running herself ragged for the past few days, picking up where Albus left off, working out his funeral and how best to lay the person she cared most about in the entire world to rest. She had had to be strong for everyone, young and old alike. She had carried the weight and grief of the European wizarding world on her petite shoulders ever since that fateful day, and now, coming down to finally make her grief known to Albus' grave, she had encountered, hunkered over it, with tears in his eyes, the man who had killed her best friend and confidante. If she had ever loved a person with her entire heart and soul (though, truly, she had done this multiple times), it had been Albus. She had stood by him since her first days in school, through many wars and terrors. Now he was gone, and his murderer, some one she had trusted implicitly, was standing at his grave.

He was crying.

She couldn't believe it. She didn't know what to think. So, she reacted, pointing her wand at him before anything could be brought to light.

But now she faltered, uncertainty burning clear through her tears. Something was sorely amiss, so many things were so wrong, and she could feel bile rising in her throat. Before she could help it, she was kneeling on the ground, emptying the contents of her stomach into the newly cut grass. Ten seconds later, a warm arm was around her waist, and another strong hand was pulling the few black strands that had gone astray of her bun away from her face, now even more pale than it had been previously. Her body sagged once she had finished, and he slowly allowed her to lean against him, uncertain as to how she would take this new situation.

In truth, she was confused. She'd just provided a prime opportunity for Severus Snape to execute her, thereby completely destroying what little morale Hogwarts (and the wizarding world) still had through her direction. But instead, he had held her, and she was so completely thrown off by it that she allowed herself to be held in response.

She turned to him, and again they continued this staring contest, but she knew, somehow, that something here was missing.

Severus wiped some sweat off of her brow with the sleeve of his robes. "Albus never explained it all to you."

"No. He rarely did these past few weeks."

"He was trying to protect you."

"He shouldn't have."

"No," Severus agreed softly, "he shouldn't have."

"But if he didn't want me to know-"

"You would have found a way to stop him, and me. We both know it. You wouldn't have let this happen."

"Why did it have to?" she whispered.

He was silent for a long time, pulling her back towards him and stroking her hair thoughtlessly. "Harry needed that final push," Severus said finally, "and Albus said he would rather die by hands, and give it, than die by some other means and render the boy helpless."

"I don't understand."

"Albus was dying, Minerva. We both saw it. He wouldn't have lived many more months as was."

"But-"

"He told you," Severus said quietly, "I know he did."

She closed her eyes and nodded. "I didn't want-"

"To believe it?" he countered softly. She looked up, and saw the truth in his eyes. "He told me what was going to happen, how it could not be prevented. He told me about Draco, about the task he had been given. His number one priority, Minerva-"

"Protect the students," she whispered. "Draco would have died."

"Exactly. And I know Harry was there, somewhere. I had to do it, to protect them both. I couldn't let them get killed."

She nodded slowly. "I understand now." Her eyes met his again. "You're a good actor."

"Yes," he agreed with a nod. "And now you must be a much greater actress."

"Oh, Merlin," she said, leaning against him again. He could feel her shaking.

"If we see each other again-" he began.

"If we see each other again," she interrupted, "I'll kill you."

It was a simple statement, and a surprising one from her. He felt immense pride well up in him. "Yes," he agreed quietly, "I believe you will."

"And I'll hate you with every fiber of my being."

"And the world will understand."

He pulled back and helped her to her feet. She reached up and, to his immense surprise, let her mass of hair down. She smiled slightly at his expression. "Albus always like it like this."

Severus couldn't help himself. "Did you love him?"

She began to walk away, and didn't answer him as she moved in front of the white tomb. He came to stand behind her, and together they silently bade their mentor goodbye. Her small hands placed themselves upon the white marble, where, directly above them, Albus' full name shown out brightly. Severus looked at her face, where a small, sad smile graced her features.

He knew not how long they stood there, but the sun was low in the sky and it was darkening when she finally pulled away from her thoughts and turned back to Severus. She didn't appear to know what to say, and on impulse, he bent down to kiss her. It was a chaste kiss - he knew full well the answer to the question he had asked earlier - and he pulled away quickly. "Goodbye, Minerva."

She nodded stiffly, and pulled her hair back up into its bun with practiced hands. They looked at each other one last time, and then she turned and briskly made the long trek back up to the school.

Yes, he thought, as he watched her go. She is beautiful.

Then, he too walked away.

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AN: Anyone who knows me at all knows that my four favorite characters, in order, are Minerva, Albus, Severus, and Hermione. Well, one of them has died and one of them has been thrown into complete Hell in a bazillion ways and I don't know what to think on him anymore (this is an attempt to rectify that :-p Obviously none of us will know exactly what's going on until the next book). Anyways, both of my favorite pairings may have been completely destroyed, but for now I'll just keep on writing, I suppose.

It's been a while since I've updated, but this idea just wrote itself. I hope you enjoyed it at least a little bit.

I just feel terribly sad for poor Minerva. But at least this time it was some one else who did something terrible to her, and not me :-P

I love you all.

-Charlotte