Close Enough to See
Disclaimer: Unfortunately, the Harry Potter series and all its characters/concepts are owned by the lovely Ms. Rowling, and not me. Sigh…
Summary: After the death of Dumbledore, three people find themselves observing a certain Transfiguration Professor. Sometimes, we find that we do not know a person as well as we thought we did.
Rolanda Hooch hurried down the stone steps of Hogwarts' entrance and across the grassy grounds to tack onto the end of a large throng of people moving toward the lake. In moments she found herself flanked by many rows of seats that stretched back from a marble table; the mark that was to be the final resting place of Albus Dumbledore.
Slightly out of breath, Rolanda stood on tip-toes and gazed over a group of students in front of her while silently chiding herself for almost being late for such an occasion. She strained her eyes toward the front of the seating arrangement, where Rolanda had been told a small segment had been reserved for the Hogwarts staff. Sure as it was, she spotted the backs of her fellow colleagues – Filius' shock of white hair, Pomona's surprisingly immaculate-looking hat, and Poppy's wispy grey bun were the first to spring into sight.
Rolanda groaned – there appeared to be no unclaimed seats anywhere near the front of the service, and even those toward the back were filling up quickly. It appeared that several attendees had even given up on squeezing through the rows of chairs to find a seat and taken to standing along the sides of the assembly of chairs instead. Spying suddenly a spare seat a couple of rows behind her between a burly-looking man with a long, braided beard and an elderly and slightly rounded woman, Rolanda swiftly ducked into the row and set herself down.
All around her people spoke quietly so that the collective mill of voices seemed to surround Rolanda like waves crashing in from every direction. She listened as fragments of reminiscences, condolences and even speculations wound in and out of the ocean of mourners around her.
Lifting her head to look toward the front of the gathering once more, Rolanda's hawk-like eyes roved the crowd intently. They soon came to rest on her quarry: a certain Transfiguration Professor seated in the very front row beside Rufus Scrimgeour. Rolanda squinted her eyes, forcing the form of Minerva McGonagall into higher definition. She was chatting with the Minister of Magic beside her; her features appeared to display no ounce of emotion in the slightest.
Rolanda scanned the rest of the crowd. Most people were overtly upset – whether simply sniffing or already dabbing handkerchiefs at the corners of their eyes. Two students in front of Rolanda were already sobbing. Whatever the case – the amount of sorrow being generated by the crowd was enough to catch on and make anyone cry. Rolanda herself could feel tears stinging her eyes just at the sound of those two students weeping loudly before her.
Which made her all the more worried about her friend seated at the front of the assembly. How could Minerva – Deputy and indeed dear friend to Dumbledore – seem so unaffected in a time when most were overcome with grief? Since the night of the Headmaster's death, Rolanda had not seen her friend shed a single tear. Minerva had remained her composed and busy self, leading Rolanda to the belief that the Professor was simply taking in the whole ordeal far too well.
There had been one odd moment when Rolanda had entered the staff room to find Minerva standing alone by the window. Her eyes were glassed over, her thoughts and vision locked somewhere in the distance. And yet as soon as Rolanda had voiced her concern, the acting Headmistress quickly assumed her strict and impassive poise once again. "I'm fine," she had said, and hurried out the door muttering something or other about the Ministry.
Rolanda's thoughts were interrupted quite abruptly by the bearded man beside her who was suddenly blowing his nose very violently into a large handkerchief. He went on to dab the soggy material at his leaking eyes, and smiled apologetically at Rolanda.
"Sorry about that," he croaked.
Rolanda waved the apology away. She supposed everyone had their way of dealing with grief. A grown man might choose to bawl his eyes out, while another woman might choose to continue life as if nothing had happened. Rolanda sighed. Perhaps this was the best way for Minerva to deal with the death of a colleague.
"It's a right dear shame," came a voice from the other side of Rolanda. The portly woman beside her looked across knowingly. "That Dumbledore was a very good man."
And the award for stating the obvious goes to…
Rolanda had to bite her tongue from voicing the remark that floated through her head. She had promised to herself that she would hold back on the snark at least today.
"Yes, he was," Rolanda replied tamely. She then proceeded to feign interest in a piece of loose thread hanging from the sleeve of her robe so as to discourage any more conversation from the woman.
"You know," continued the woman, and Rolanda did her best to suppress a sigh of exasperation, "At my age, you find yourself attending quite a few funerals."
The woman had paused, and looked toward Rolanda as if awaiting some response before going on. Rolanda forced a polite smile.
The woman seemed satisfied, and grinned so that two large dimples impressed themselves on each of her cheeks.
"But I must say, this certainly has to be the largest I've ever seen. Quite pretty, too. If you ask me outdoor funerals are always the nicest. And such a lovely Summer's day!"
"Ah… yes," Rolanda offered. She prayed for the service to just begin already.
"It's really quite amazing to see so many people touched by Dumbledore's death, isn't it?"
Rolanda looked at the woman, and then out across the group of people around her. All here – united – in their respect, admiration and love for Dumbledore. The old lady's comment suddenly made Rolanda immensely proud to have known and worked for such a man. She dabbed her sleeve at the corners of her eyes.
"Yes, it is," she agreed, and this time offered a genuine smile.
"A lot of people are taking it quite hard, aren't they?" The woman continued. "It's an odd kind of situation, though. Normally at a funeral one offers their condolences to the family. But with Dumbledore…"
Rolanda considered the woman's point. She knew next to nothing about Dumbledore's family. He apparently had a brother somewhere, but other than that…
"…Not even a spouse. Strange that he never married, isn't it? Probably for the best, though. I don't know how many women could deal with their partner being murdered in such awful circumstances, do you? Then again, in my experience it's always the spouse that seems to best deal with the death. Well, on the outside anyway. Perhaps they feel they have to be strong for everyone else. Who knows?"
It appeared as though the woman was going to continue talking, but a strange sort of music began flowing over the crowd from the lake: the merpeople were singing. The assembly of people hushed as the service finally began.
Rolanda sat back in her seat, and almost didn't notice when the great form of Hagrid began walking down the aisle carrying Dumbledore's body wrapped in purple velvet. Her mind was too busy processing the last words that the rounded woman beside her had spoken.
It's always the spouse that seems to best deal with the death…
Rolanda lifted her gaze to look at Minerva once again, far in the front row. A cold wave seemed to wash over Rolanda as she began to wonder whether she even really knew her friend at all.
Hopa! Thanks for reading, kiddliwinks. This will eventually be a three-part series, each taking the view of a different character – but each dealing with McGonagall. Because she is love. :D
Reviews are lovely. :P