Summary: Ten prisoners escaped from Azkaban. But Minerva McGonagall only sees one name… How did the Professor react the first time see read the Daily Prophet that day?

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Guilty Memories

Professor Minerva McGonagall was an early riser. Always had been. However that day, as she was soon to realize, would be one she wished had simply slept straight through.

The Professor had continued to purchase the wizarding newspaper, The Daily Prophet, not because she trusted their every word. In fact, she knew many to be wrong. But she bought it because they did know things the Order did not, at times. And that day- the worst she could remember for many years- they most certainly knew something she did not.

She had paid her knut to the barn owl, giving its back a quick stroke before it was off again. She merely tossed it aside to her desk. There was nothing, she had thought, that couldn't wait the few minutes as she tidied her room.

Though both her classroom and office showed the meticulous, professional side Minerva had always possessed, her quarters were far more her. She never seemed to have time to make her bed, to put robes away before they were necessary to put back on. Minerva shook her head at the room, making the bed and putting a few things away. But that was really all she had the patience for. She was not a cleaner. No matter how well she was a transfiguration, she had never truly mastered household spells.

Minerva shook her head. No matter. She quite liked it as it was.

With a shock she realized how quickly breakfast hours were approaching. She picked her paper off the desk and walked down into her office and out into the corridors.

Her walk was brisk, something she had adopted during the first war with You-Know-Who. She wasn't entirely sure when during the long war… at some point dawdling in the streets and speaking with friends became a far distance memory. That was, perhaps, when her brisk walk had installed itself into her life. It now just came with the strict face and rigid posture- both of which had also spawned in those dark years.

"Minerva! Oh my, Minerva." Minerva turned to see her friend and colleague running after her. She stopped, allowing her to catch up. "Have you read the Prophet yet?"

"No. I have it right here. I was-" But Professor Pomona Sprout was already tearing the paper from her hands.

"Look, look at the front page."

Minerva's brow rose at her friend's behavior, but found she had little choice. Then the thought dawned on her that Pomona was hardly ever flustered- not like she was. Something had happened. Something…

She looked down at the paper in front of her. She had to take it from Pomona's hands to see it clearly. Her eyes completely missed the title, only noticing the words: 'escaped' and 'Azkaban'. Her gaze dropped down to the pictures. Ten, it looked like. But she wasn't looking over the faces. Wasn't reading what they had done. No, she was staring down at one picture.

A pointed nose wizard with sullen cheeks and a manic smile gazed steadily back at her. He laughed, the motion looking more like an agonizing scream, but no sound emanated from his throat.

Minerva's hands shook as they held the paper. But she didn't notice. She just continued to stare down at the man. The man laughing at the hands that held him in the picture.

Her face grew steadily white. Her breathing had nearly stopped. But she stared down at the man. 'Gilibeirt Cowyn: Arrested for the use of Cruciatus Curse, leaving thirty-seven victims mentally impaired or dead.'

"Minerva? Minerva?" Her trace was finally broken by Pomona shaking her arm. She looked up, as if surprised someone else was around her. "Are you okay?"

The sound of footsteps around her finally registered. She swallowed and nodded at Pomona. Then, with one final glance at the face, she slammed the paper closed and turned on her heels, marching back to her office.

Minerva wasn't really sure why she had retreated there. Afraid, perhaps, to arrive at the Great Hall in her state.

She took a shaky breath as she stepped over the threshold to her office. Slipping her eyes closed, she took another. Then a third. Then she chucked the Daily Prophet across the room. Some Muggle phrase came to mind: 'Don't kill the deliverer.' Or something like that. Messenger?

Minerva shook her head, running her now free hand over her face.

She wanted to sit down. No, she wanted to collapse. She wanted to run. Wanted to throw something. She wanted to do something. She wanted nothing more than to break down.

Her eyes fell closed again and one single tear escaped her rigid control. She licked her lips, tasting the salt. Tasting the bitter taste of loss.

She wasn't sure when she had taken her wand from her robes, but there it was in her hand. She wanted to rip apart the room. Wanted to smash everything. But why bother? What would it accomplish? In the end, she would be left to clean it all back up.

Minerva sighed again, wand hand falling to her side. She turned around, not noticing that her door was still wide open and exposed to public eye. She didn't care.

And suddenly she turned over chair next to her. Simply pushing it with all her might. She didn't feel any better.

"Hem, hem."

Minerva turned so fast that she startled the owner of the voice. Her wand was raised, but Minerva quickly relaxed herself. "Sorry."

"Are you alright? I heard… well I must have heard that chair fall over." Minerva glanced over her shoulder to look at the fallen chair. She didn't want to pick it up. When she turned back around, she was annoyed to see that Dolores had taken it as her duty to step inside Minerva's office.

"If you will excuse me, I'm having a bad day."

"Already?"

"Yes," Minerva growled. She did not often judge people quickly, but Dolores invited hate. She quite simply did. "Now, I don't need you to make it worse."

"Me? I just came to make sure you were alright."

"And I am. Please leave my office."

"Don't this have to do with those ten Death Eaters? I'm sure that must not feel good to know the Sirius Black is out there with them. Scary, dreadful thought, really."

Minerva bit back the words on the tip of her tongue. She hadn't read the article, but the fact that they named Sirius Black in there hardly surprised her. You-Know-Who would not have made it into the article. "Dolores-"

"Now, now, Minerva. It is all right. I understand. Bad day for us all. People like Lestrange running amuck through England. I shudder to think."

"Bellatrix Lestrange?"

"Yes. Didn't you see her? She was the first one."

"Oh, yes. I forgot."

Dolores nodded, but there was no usually toad-like smile to accompany it. For that, Minerva was eternally grateful. And then Dolores retreated out of her office.

Bellatrix Lestrange? Gilibeirt Cowyn? Could her day get any worse?

It could.

Minerva looked up just as a lone figure walked slowly passed it. Her eyes fell closed again and she let out a slow sigh. When they opened back up, her feet had already taken her to the door and her mouth opened to form the word, "Longbottom?"

The young man looked back at her in surprise. She was almost sure he hadn't a clue where his feet had been leading him.

"In my office please. You're not in trouble."

He nodded and Minerva stepped away to allow him in. Oh, he had grown so much, she thought. Since the day she had seen him enter Hogwarts, he had grown, yes. But she thought, in that moment, of the young babe she had seen so many years before.

"Sit." She knew he had looked over to find one of the two seats knocked over. If he had thought something odd about it, he didn't say. He merely sat in the one beside it. Minerva walked over to him slowly. Her feet began to lead her around her desk, but she stopped herself. Instead, she picked back up the chair and turned it to face Neville.

"I can tell you've heard the news?" He nodded slowly. She could see the fear, the pain, the anger in her eyes. She wasn't sure if he could see the same reflecting in her own.

"How are you doing?" He just shrugged. "Neville. Neville, look at me." She thought he might not for a moment, but slowly his eyes turned to look at her. He stared at her chin. "I know how you're feeling right now. You're hurt and confused and you're angry. You want revenge. But I have to warn you not to do anything foolish. Do you understand me?"

He nodded once, but Minerva saw no real conviction in the movement. "Neville?"

"How can you understand?" Minerva's brows raised, eyes widening at how loud the boy's voice was. He too seemed shocked for just a moment before continuing. "How can you know what it's like? To grow up without parents? To know they'll never really understand me or know what I've done or anything about me? How can you understand that?"

She shook her head slowly. "I can't. I can't understand that. But I can understand how you feel about Bellatrix Lestrange. I can understand how much you hate her. How much you want her found. Want her killed. I can understand that."

"How? What do you know about it?"

Minerva nodded. Her students knew nothing of her ties with the original Order of the Phoenix. She wondered how many knew what it was. They had all been so young back then. She wondered how many knew she had fought alongside Dumbledore and people like Sirius Black and the Potters and the Longbottoms. Good witches and wizards, so many of them dead now. She wondered how many students could guess the horrible memories she had of those dark years. Not even the young Weasleys and Mr. Potter and Ms. Granger- who knew of the Order- could really understand them.

She wondered how many knew anything about who she had been as You-Know-Who rose to power. She wondered many things…

"I know more than you realize, Neville."

"Oh, yeah? You're friends died! I know that. A lot of people died! And that woman basically killed my parents!"

"She did much worse than that, Neville, I know. I know how angry you are-"

"No you don't! You don't know!"

"Neville. Neville." He calmed just enough to look at her. "Do you know who Gilibeirt Cowyn is?"

"A Death Eater?"

She nodded at the guess. She reached out a hand to touch his arm. She wasn't sure who she was trying to give comfort to- which of them she thought needed it more at that moment. "He was the man who killed with the Cruciatus Curse. He used that to kill my husband and son. I know how you feel, Neville. I know how it feels."

Neville was quiet for a moment. He looked down at his hands. Minerva thought he looked somewhat embarrassed. She stroked his cheek gently. "I'm hungry. How 'bout you?" He just shrugged, slowly looking up at her. She tried to reassure him with a smile. But it was small and haunted. His eyes just brought back the few happy memories of a horrible past.

It only made it worse to see Mr. Potter and Mr. Longbottom in class. They, and some others, just reminded her. Reminded her of happy moments- moments that made her feel guilty. Guilty for having fun on the eve of someone's death. Or a mere week after someone had been tortured and killed.

And then there were the ones she saw- often the same children- that made her think of all the horrible moments she had witnessed. She had been lucky and sparred some of the harder things she had heard briefly spoken about. She had never seen You-Know-Who. Torture was a vague memory of a few single nights. Death was something she saw mostly hours after it had happened.

But she still saw. Still fought. She still remembered it all as if it were yesterday.

And soon she feared, it would happen all over again.