Note/Warnings: This is sort of a continuation of 'Sketch of a Lady' but probably can be read alone. The time line is deliberately vague, so for that I apologise. It's not the canon timeline, put it that way. It's set probably a week after the events in 'Sketch of a Lady', and before 'Necromancer' (which is not yet posted.)
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter
Dedication: to DubhlachdAnRos who I have been unable to chat to!
The world was monochromatic; the nocturnal fog drifting sluggishly over the ice of the lake. The breeze was chill, and frost had formed on the windows, held at bay only by the enchantments placed on the glass centuries ago.
Minerva McGonagall folded her legs beneath herself as she withdrew a cigarette from its thin paper package and held it between her lips as she tapped the end with her wand. The first intake of breath was akin to a cold swim on a hot day, and she tangled her hand through her hair as she leant her head against the cushion behind and exhaled at length. The grey smoke unfurled before her eyes and drifted toward the fire.
She arched her back in a feline manner and held the cigarette loosely between her manicured fingers as she reached for the small tumbler of scotch. It was one am in the morning, but she knew that if she closed her eyes she would be transported back to the abandoned manor. She hadn't been mistreated, quite the contrary – she was given ample food and water – but to be chained for a week whilst he sketched her...
An involuntary shudder ran through her limbs and she downed the rest of the scotch and dragged heavily on her cigarette. The fire was roaring in the grate, but she couldn't seem to get warm and rose to her feet with the intent to retrieve her fur-lined cloak.
Mid-way across the room there was a frenzied knocking at her door, and she swore lightly under her breath. She strode the length of her chambers and opened the door viciously. Her eyebrows flew upwards as she recognised the man who pushed past her.
"Severus?" she said closing the door behind her.
The young man nodded curtly as he paced up-and-down. "I've come to confess," he said agitatedly, running his hands through his lank hair. "To everything."
Minerva moved forward, placed a gentle hand on his elbow and steered him toward the couch. She passed him the bottle of scotch and tumbler, but he drank from the bottle, the amber liquid disappearing quickly down his throat. Minerva sat opposite him, and he snatched the cigarette from her, inhaling furiously.
"I didn't know where to go," he continued, his black eyes finally focusing on her.
"You could have gone to the Headmaster," Minerva said gently. "He's the more logical choice."
"But he'd forgive me instantly," Severus retorted instantly. "With you I know where I stand. You hate Slytherins."
Minerva's eyes narrowed. "That is not true. I am fair to all my students."
"Fair, maybe," he conceded. "That doesn't detract from the fact you hate us."
"Why are you here?" Minerva asked coolly.
"To confess!" Severus all-but-shouted. "I'm a Death Eater! I've raped, murdered..." his voice trailed off and he stared at her, his eyes wide and pleading. "I don't want to do it anymore. I just..."
Tears began to run down his face and he hung his face in his hands. Minerva moved forward and pushed his chin upward so he would look at her. "What changed your mind?" she asked softly.
"There was a drawing," he whispered. "The Dark Lord had it beside him. The woman in it, she was glaring at him. She obviously hated him. As he ordered me to go and kill more people, I realised I hated him too."
Minerva's hand flew to her mouth, and she took several steps back. "The drawing," she managed eventually. "What was the woman doing?"
Severus' brow furrowed. "What does it matter...?"
"What was she doing?" Minerva hissed, her temper threatening to bubble to the surface.
Severus flinched back from her, suddenly apprehensive. "She was lying on a couch. There were restraints on her wrists and she was smoking a cigarette..."
His voice trailed off as Minerva ran her hand through her hair, effectively disheveling her bun. His eyes widened as they met her flashing pools of green. "You," he said incredulously. "It was you. Why?"
"He's been obsessed with me for years," Minerva said faintly. "I didn't think he'd let anyone see the picture."
"Did he...?" Severus asked softly.
Minerva looked up sharply, and shook her head when she realised his unspoken question. "Oh, no," she said with a harsh laugh. "I'm 'too pure to be tainted.'"
She glared at the wall opposite as Severus shuffled awkwardly in his seat. "So that's why you hate Slytherins..."
"I don't hate them!" Minerva said angrily.
"I don't blame you..."
"I'm taking you to the Headmaster," Minerva said, cutting him off. "He's the one you should be speaking to."
She marched toward the door, but turned when she didn't hear footsteps behind her. "Well?" she demanded as Severus looked at the floor.
"I suppose I should thank you, really," he said softly. "If I hadn't seen the drawing..."
"Save it, Severus," Minerva said through gritted teeth. "You're talking to the wrong person."
She opened the door and marched through the winding halls of Hogwarts toward the Headmaster's office. Severus trailed behind her, and together they walked up the ascending spiral staircase. There was a faint thread of light streaming from underneath the door, and the door swung open without Minerva having to knock.
Albus looked up as she entered, and she gestured at Severus who stepped forward into the light. "Severus," he said jovially. "What brings you here."
"He's confessing," Minerva said succinctly. "Now if you'll excuse me..."
She turned and strode away from the room and back to her chambers. The armchair was still warm from where she had been sitting only minutes beforehand, and she draped a tartan throw over herself. She glared at the empty space which Severus had occupied only moments beforehand.
"Why me, you sick fuck?" she hissed, eying her wrists which still bore bruises. Why me?
Hours later, the question continued to loop through her mind, the faint threads of remembrance surging forth from their cerebral crypt. She was no Necromancer, but the chords of memories she had suppressed for decades, clawed their way through her subconscious.
At thirty-seven and eying the young man before her.
"If I hadn't seen the drawing..."
"Save it, Severus..."
At seventeen, a hand pulled her into a darkened corner of the library.
"Let me go!"
At thirty-seven again, she reached up and caressed her cheek.
"You're too pure to be tainted..."
Minerva awoke clutching the throw tightly to her breast. Her chest was heaving, and she looked wildly about the room to find Severus moving quickly toward her. He perched on the arm rest of her chair, and placed his hands on her shoulders.
"Professor!" he said urgently as she gasped for air.
She shook her head, pushing him away from her as her erratic breathing steadied. "I'm fine, lad," she said irritably.
He looked down at his hands as she fought to regain her mental footing.
"What happened with Albus?" she asked, breaking the uncomfortable silence.
"He forgave me," he answered dully.
Minerva reached out and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder (a gesture that surprised herself). "That's good news," she said softly. "Isn't it?"
He nodded, and to her utmost surprise tears began to run down his cheeks. "How could he forgive me?" he asked. "After what I've done..."
His body began to shudder, and Minerva tightened the grip on his shoulder. He reached up and entwined his fingers with hers, drawing him toward her. She stiffened, but he didn't seem to notice as he clung to her tightly, his finger curling in the satin of her nightgown. His shoulders rose and fell until he was not sobbing, but hyperventilating. Slowly, Minerva relaxed, and she rubbed small circles on his back. He fell silent, and soon became so still that she thought he had fallen asleep in her arms. It was not until he drew back that she realised she was holding him as tightly as he was her, and she leant back, abashed, and wiped her eyes furtively.
She looked up to find Severus looking at her, his black eyes full of familiar intent. Of its own volition, her body reacted, and she leant into his touch as he reached out and cupped her cheek.
"I do believe, Professor McGonagall," he said hoarsely, "That I was mistaken about you when I attended school."
Minerva laughed softly, though she leant away from his touch and rose to her feet, putting several feet between them.
"I'll show you to the spare bedroom," she said, gesturing for him to follow her.
Together they traipsed down the small hallway, and Minerva directed him to the bed-chambers directly opposite hers. "Should you need anything," she said as he looked into her eyes. "I'm just across the hall."
He nodded mutely, and Minerva spun on her heel and marched into her quarters, closing the door behind her. She leant against the cool wood, the exhaustion that had been nipping at her heels washing over her like an icy flood-head. She crossed the room and lay down, reveling in the way the pillow contoured to her face.
As somnolence began to take hold, her thoughts drifted to the young man sleeping only yards away from her. She had just begun to open the door to his room, to check on his sleeping figure, when darkness overcame her, and the world dissolved into black.
The sun had just began to rise when Minerva awoke, her hand flying instinctively to her wand. Severus stood at the foot of her bed, his skin cadaverous in the dim light. Minerva arched an inquiring eyebrow as she swung her legs over the edge of the bed and shrugged her tartan dressing gown over her shoulders.
"Could you enlighten me as to why I'm currently awake at this god-forsaken hour?" she asked blearily, covering her mouth as she yawned.
"I wanted to thank you," he said, moving forward until they were scarcely a foot apart.
"And that couldn't have waited a few more hours?" Minerva said, folding her arms across her chest to block the chill.
Severus shrugged. "I couldn't sleep," he confessed. "And..." he faltered briefly. "And I wanted to apologise. For thinking you didn't care about us...about me..."
Minerva smiled, and touched his arm briefly. "A mistake many have made. I'm not known for my engaging personality. I believe 'pedagogue' is my current nick-name."
A clipped laugh escaped from Severus' lips. "I also wanted to..." his voice trailed off, and he looked to steel himself before he reached out and gripped her waist, pulling her toward him.
She had no time to protest, and he crashed his lips against hers, as if by doing so he could devour her whole. Minerva placed a hand on his chest, presumably to push him away and reprimand him, but when he parted her lips and explored her mouth slowly and reverentially, she found herself faltering and her hands reaching around his neck, pulling him toward her.
He pushed her toward the bed, and they fell down together. His lips left hers and traveled down her neck and to her collarbone. She arched her back toward him, pushing any coherent thoughts that screamed 'what are you doing!' to the furtherest recesses of her mind. Slowly he slipped her nightgown over her shoulders, exposing pristine skin. Minerva unbuttoned his robes, and traced the lines of his chest, smirking slightly as he shuddered under his touch.
"That drawing," he said as he poised himself over her. "Without it I wouldn't have come back."
Minerva shook her head. "You would have, Severus," she whispered into his ear. "Eventually."
He nodded, and in a fluid motion entered her. She inhaled sharply and arched her pelvis toward him. Thoughts of Death Eaters, Tom Riddle, and the abandoned manor flittered briefly through her mind, but she dispelled them instantly.
She was helping to heal a broken man.
Tom Riddle and his sketches be damned.
Notes: Please review! DubhCleite.