A/N: I wrote this several months ago, but somehow never managed to post it. So, I thought I would go ahead and do so...it's been a long time since I put up a Minerva fic. Spoilers for HBP; although I'm sure most everyone has read it by now, you've been warned if you haven't.

December was cold.

It was always cold in December at Hogwarts. In the middle of Scotland, the weather was bound to be harsh around the winter holidays. Always a white Christmas, always children tromping in the snow in the courtyard between classes, filled with excitement over the impending Christmas vacation. The halls would be filled with red and green, with candles and tinsel. Hogwarts was always very beautiful in December.

Somehow, this year seemed colder, though the snow was less. Instead of reds and greens and yellows and silvers, the whole world seemed to be varying shades of grey.

At least, that's what Minerva McGonagall saw when she looked out her window. Maybe it was because she wasn't looking down at the ground below, where there might have been children and color and some small hints of laughter in spite of the dark times they were facing. Sitting in the windowseat of her chambers with her knees drawn up to her chest, she stared at the sky, the grey clouds reflected in her grey eyes.

The sky seemed only one more painful reminder that she was alone. It seemed an eternity since she had gazed upon blue skies...but perhaps that was because she had only really noticed the sky when it was reflected in a pair of twinkling blue eyes that had recently gone missing from her life.

He used to say she was the summer to his winter. He teased her about how she was much too young to act as old as she did, though she was far past girlhood. A good thirty years her senior, he was an unexpected friend to her, both when she was a student at Hogwarts and when she became a professor. She had always secretly thought he had the pair of them pegged a little backwards. No matter how much older and wiser he was, she always saw him as being the summer of her life, with herself being the winter. She was sternness and realism and maturity. He was laughter and optimism and youth. Above all else, he was blue skies.

The sensible side of her could say that the sun went on rising and setting without him. The stern Headmistress of Hogwarts knew that the sky still shone blue on sunny days. However, her intellect couldn't stop her from feeling a constant, unshakable chill in the months since he had been gone. It couldn't stop her already-thin form dropping several pounds off; she ate no more than was required to stop her stomach from growling because food no longer held any taste for her. Most of her once-favorite dishes only reminded her that he had been the one to first introduce them to her, and she couldn't stomach them without feeling nauseous.

Of course, on the outside, she remained perfectly in control. The rest of the faculty noticed that she seemed drawn and thin, but they didn't dare mention anything to her. Most of them had convinced themselves that it was the stress of the new job that was taking a toll on her. No one really had any room to reprimand her for not eating or to criticize her for being a little colder than usual; many of them were acting in much the same manner since the Dark Lord's return. There was no more sugar-coating things for the students. It was very hard to sugar-coat a war that had every possibility of being the end of their world.

Some of them knew that Albus' death was somewhat responsible for her manner. Those who had noticed that she would not speak to his portrait in her office...and that the portrait, out of respect for her feelings, had not uttered a word to her yet. He merely watched in silence, and she pretended that he was not there at all. When the time was right, when she really needed his advice, she would come to him for it. But she could not simply carry on a conversation with a two-dimensional shadow of the only person in her adult life who had ever really seen her for anything more than stern, strict Professor McGonagall.

So she sat by her window, her forehead resting against the cold glass, not even noticing that the fire in her room was no longer burning and the chill seeping through the window should have prompted her to move away from it. The cold was something she was used to by now.

December was always cold.