I close my eyes, the lantern dies
This fic has been on my mind for some time. I'm not sure it came out all that well, but I hope you enjoy. It was inspired by the latest Narnia movies, and based on them as well. Therefore, the background information is probably a bit flawed, as it's been years since I read the books and I remember very little.
It started out as a feeling And then that word grew louder and louder I'll come back Just because everything's changing All you can do is try to know Pick a star on the dark horizon You'll come back Now we're back to the beginning Let your memories grow stronger and stronger You'll come back
Which then grew into a hope
Which then turned into a quiet thought
Which then turned into a quiet word
'Til it was a battle cry
When you call me
No need to say goodbye
Doesn't mean it's never
Been this way before
Who your friends are
As you head off to the war
And follow the light
When it's over
No need to say good bye
It's just a feeling and now one knows yet
But just because they can't feel it too
Doesn't mean that you have to forget
'Til they're before your eyes
When it's over
No need to say good bye
It started out as a feeling
And then that word grew louder and louder
I'll come back
Just because everything's changing
All you can do is try to know
Pick a star on the dark horizon
You'll come back
Now we're back to the beginning
Let your memories grow stronger and stronger
You'll come back
The four siblings waited, and waited, and waited. But the call never came.
Lucy, of course, never lost hope. She smiled and laughed, not so different from the Queen she had once been.
Edmund, patient and wise now, waited quietly. It was difficult to tell what he was thinking.
Peter chaffed at the restrictions of his child self, used to being in charge, to leading armies into battle. Eventually, though, he settled back with his hard-earned patience.
And Susan. Daily, her brothers and sister saw the struggle to believe in a country and a past of which they retained nothing but a memory that had begun, almost unnoticeably, to fade.
Almost a year after the war, they felt it. Vacationing in the remote countryside, walking through a small town, the four had felt a trickle of magic pass over them. Freezing in place, heart racing in her chest as goose-bumps rose on their arms, it was disappointing when they realized it felt not at all like Narnia.
But still, it was magic, and they were curious. They followed it to a strange store containing all sorts of strange objects. Susan picked up a smooth length of wood, and gasped as sparks shot from the end.
Realizing how surprised the four were, the shopkeeper took it upon himself to briefly explain the Wizarding World. At his suggestion, the wand was passed around to Peter, Edmund, and Lucy, but none of them got any reaction as Susan had.
As interested as the others were, Susan took to the Wizarding World with a will. She bought what books she could afford, containing history and elementary spells, as well as that first wand she had touched. This…this was real. Tangible, physical evidence of a magical world. This was something she could always find, always return to if need be.
But she could only go so far without personal instruction. And so, after searching for months, she found an eccentric witch to apprentice to, who didn't seem to mind that she had no formal schooling and little practical knowledge of their kind of magic.
What puzzled them, an extremely dangerous problem, was that Susan's magic had failed her on more than one occasion. It didn't happen often, but if she couldn't rely on her magic, then there was always a chance that she could be injured or killed.
It was Lucy who realized what was wrong. The magic of Narnia and the magic of the Wizarding World could not coexist. Every time Susan embodied her aspect as Queen of Narnia, with the regality and command, the compulsion for obedience, her witchcraft deserted her.
By then Susan was growing further apart from Narnia, and it was a simple thing to bury her royal self away where it would never escape unless she called upon it. And she was determined never to call upon it. Perhaps she could not keep a part of herself chained forever, but she could try. More and more she couldn't find the strength within herself to believe in Narnia, and it hurt to try.
Perhaps that was why she had taken to being known by her middle name in the Wizarding World. 'Minerva' didn't carry nearly the same meaning for her and her siblings as 'Susan' did.
Years later she applied for the open position of Transfiguration Professor at Hogwarts. In spite of her unique history of education, she was given the job. But then, Albus Dumbledore had always been a proponent of diversity. Lucy had said that she had always pictured her as a teacher, but never quite like this.
It wasn't Narnia. It was but a pale echo of the world they considered home, and Susan never knew whether it was the similarities that drew her to Hogwarts, or the differences.
Her brothers and sister came to help her move in, to support as she began her new career. They looked around, fascinated, wide-eyed, but there was no time to explore yet. The boys were unpacking in the living room when Lucy came up behind her with a hug.
"It isn't home," she murmured sympathetically.
Susan didn't reply. When they left she wondered what she was doing there.
Lucy visited again in winter, alone this time. Susan stared across the snow covered grounds from an ice-covered castle and didn't think about 100 years of winter without Christmas, because at that particular moment she decided it hadn't happened (was pretending it hadn't happened, anyway).
"Susan, please," she pleaded. "Don't punish yourself like this. We're all different. You've always been logical, scientific. It's simply who you are. Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen. You'll learn to have faith, Su. You'll learn to believe in things that have no physical proof. Don't punish yourself for losing conviction."
Susan was a little surprised, but then Lucy had always been able to see to the heart of the matter. She was strong, perhaps the strongest of the four of them. Her faith did not waver, even in the face of doubt.
A year and a half later, Susan was almost surprised to find that she was married. She had met a wizard in Hogsmeade, an Auror-in-training named Malcolm McGonagall. She was never quite sure what had possessed her to agree to a date with the man. He was quiet, compassionate, and intelligent, true, but she didn't think she was ready for any sort of intimacy with anyone other than her siblings.
Nearly a year after they had begun seeing each other, Malcolm asked her to marry him. Susan didn't know what had possessed her to say yes. He was extremely devoted to her, loved her dearly. And if she couldn't love him, she did feel affection for him. He was…safe. And at that time in her life she craved safety and stability.
They shared a pleasant life for a time. Discrete as they were, Headmaster Dumbledore didn't mind that they occasionally shared her rooms during the school year.
Malcolm died half a year later in a raid on a warehouse of Dark and cursed objects. She had mourned the loss of his companionship, but life didn't stop, no matter the tragedy. And she had Peter, Edmund, and Lucy to help her through. Even Albus had been supportive and done what he could to make things easier for her. He knew that she hadn't been in love, Susan could tell. But it was still a type of love, and if he couldn't understand, at least he tried.
Time passed. Life passed.
Susan's siblings died in a train wreck.
Albus was there when she received the news early in the morning at breakfast. He watched as all color drained from her face leaving her deathly pale, as her hands shook, a letter clutched tightly by her fingers. She turned her head slowly, painfully to face him.
"They're dead," she said quietly, and her voice was strange. "All of them."
The letter slipped from nerveless fingers as she stood and left, and Albus skimmed the contents. "Oh my dear," he murmured sympathetically, and sent a message to the staff before preparing himself to take over the Transfiguration classes. Minerva would not be teaching that day, possibly not for several days to come.
He visited during his free period. She was on her bed, curled up on her side as if in physical pain. Her sheets were damp beneath her head, and her dark hair, down for once, clung to cheeks wet with tears. Her eyes were closed, red and puffy from crying, but Albus could tell that she was still awake.
"Aslan," she sobbed, unaware of her visitor, "oh Aslan."
The name washed over him like a summer breeze, filling him with a powerful warmth in spite of the tragedy. He shook himself out of his musings and softly spoke her name, tentatively brushing her hair away from her face.
"I'm sorry for your loss, Minerva. I will miss them as well."
Peter, Edmund, and Lucy had often visited during the summers when Minerva was unable to visit them. They were the only ones allowed to use her first name, and it took some adjusting to hear Minerva referred to as "Susan." He remembered how full of life and laughter they had been as they explored the castle, drawing Minerva out of her shell. It seemed, at times, as though the four of them were looking for something, though what that might be Albus didn't know. He watched, puzzled at the ease with which they slipped into protective formation when faced with the unknown. He smiled, fascinated as they held whole conversations with only their eyes. What she must feel, he thought, to have lost that. Albus didn't think he could comprehend that crippling grief.
Looking down at her still figure, she looked broken.
Minerva had glanced up at his voice, but she didn't seem to really see him. "I can't," she whispered brokenly. "I'm the last one left of everyone. I'm not strong enough to believe on my own."
She would retreat into herself. Who would draw her out now? he wondered. Who would tease her and laugh with her, challenge her and encourage her? Who would love her with the strength of Peter, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie?
Albus found himself filled with resolve, completely determined to be that person.
It was not an easy task that Dumbledore had set himself, but it was enjoyable all the same. They became as close as family over the years. The hole where Susan's family had been was still there, but Albus had never meant to replace them. He had his own niche in the woman's heart.
"The centaurs have once again refused to accept our overtures for an alliance and, as you know, without their assistance it is exceedingly unlikely that we will receive any help from the rest of the Forbidden Forest's residents," Dumbledore announced with a sigh.
Minerva looked around the meeting room, taking note of the discouraged expressions sported by the Order members. They would need all the help they could get if they wanted to defeat Voldemort once and for all. Harry in particular looked gloomy at the news.
Her pulse raced as she realized what she needed to do, what she knew she would do.
"I will speak with the centaurs," she stated, voice strong despite her apprehension.
Immediately everyone turned to stare at her, those who knew her well almost incredulous. Minerva went out of her way to avoid the Forbidden Forest. In fact, Dumbledore realized with a frown, to his knowledge she had never spoken to any centaur, with the possible exception of Firenze who had become the Divination Professor.
"And you think you can succeed where the Headmaster failed?" Snape sneered before anyone else could speak.
Minerva felt her witchcraft slip away as she gained the regal and commanding aspect of a Queen of Narnia. "Yes," she said with complete certainty.
And there was nothing the Order could say to that.
The next night she dug through the back of her closet, blinking back tears at the reminder of everything she had lost. She placed a long box on the floor and withdrew from it a bow and quiver of arrows. Gifts she had hardly touched, from before the accident. Next, Queen Susan cast aside her outer robes and loosed her hair from its bun, choosing instead to braid it. Her wand she left on her vanity, useless while she was actively the Queen.
She had not become Queen since Dolores had invaded the castle, and that had been an accident. Running towards Hagrid, full of righteous fury, the four stunners had caught her mid-transformation, both witchcraft and power of command out of her grasp.
Albus followed her invisibly through the empty corridors, intrigued by this change in his Deputy. He had never known she practiced archery, and why would she carry a bow and arrows to meet with the centaurs?
The old wizards watched as she paused at the edge of the Forbidden Forest as if steeling herself. "I wish Peter were here," he heard her whisper. "He was always the one to do this."
Albus settled back to wait, praying for her safety as Susan disappeared into the trees.
Several hours later Susan emerged, exhausted, from the Forest. She paused, not because she noticed the figure waiting for her, concern in his warm blue eyes, but because of the familiar scent of flower petals carried on the breeze and the rustle just to her right. Slowly Susan turned and the shape of a woman floated in the petals. Tears gathered in her eyes at the sight, long-missed, amid this Dark and gloomy forest, weighed down by grief. Weak though the creature was, Susan understood the whispery voice.
"Thank you," she said with a slight curtsy as the shape dispersed with a sad sigh.
"Minerva?" A familiar voice called her name and she jumped in surprise.
"Albus," she greeted and approached him.
"What happened?" he asked, and she knew that he had seen the spirit.
Having no wish to explain, to consider the ramifications of her actions, she chose to willfully misunderstand. "The centaurs have agreed to assist us in our battle, so long as I lead them."
"You…" he repeated, stunned by the request.
"Yes," Susan continued briskly. "I have also spoken with the griffins, and even a few of the trees have offered their assistance. The centaurs will attempt to gain the support, or at least neutrality, of the other creatures of the forest."
"This is marvelous, Minerva," he said, a twinkle in his eyes. "But how did you manage it? Bane and the rest of the herd were adamant about not becoming involved in the war."
The Queen hesitated. "The race of centaurs has a long memory, Albus," she said, picking her words carefully. "They miss their homeland, and that loss weighs on them heavily. Always, they wish to return. I offered them a chance, a possibility, of earning a way home, and now it is my responsibility to lead them into battle."
Albus met her gaze and saw in her eyes a brilliant sea, the surface broken by a leaping mermaid. She shifted, moonlight hitting her at a different angle, and he saw the land itself swear fealty to her.
"Now, if you will excuse me, I fear I will collapse if I do not get some sleep," she said before he could question her further, and brushed by him. Please, Aslan, guide us.
Questions crowded his mind, but Albus simply watched his Deputy leave, allowing her to keep her secrets for now. The mystery he had glimpsed only a few times in all his decades of knowing her now surrounded her, and he found his curiosity roused.
It was nearly a fortnight after gaining the assistance of the centaurs that Dumbledore had trouble tracking down Minerva. He was beginning to worry when one of the portraits mentioned having seen her on the seventh floor. It took him but a moment to conclude that she was using the Room of Requirement.
Upon reaching the door – confirming its use – he knocked. When he received no answer he silently entered the room and watched in surprise and increasing awe.
Minerva stood tall and upright, legs shoulder-width apart, sideways to the multitude of moving targets as arrow after arrow found its mark. Less than a handful clattered off of armor, and even fewer missed the target altogether. Sweat stood out on her brow, strands of loose hair clung to her cheeks and forehead. Her breathing was coming faster than usual, but nothing shook her concentration as she loosed arrows at lightning speed.
Albus remained quiet as more targets crept up on her side, curious to see what she would do. The bow was a long-range weapon; these practice dummies were too close.
Minerva seemed to sense danger approaching as she did not nock the next arrow drawn from her quiver, but instead slashed it sharply against the figure's neck, and then stabbed the second. However, the arrow was jerked out of her hand, and she fumbled the next draw. The third dummy struck the back of her head, and the entire room froze just before the blow landed. The dummies disappeared and Minerva cursed under her breath as she moved to collect her arrows.
"Too slow, too inaccurate, why didn't I continue after we came back?" she muttered.
Albus cleared his throat, interrupting her criticisms and announcing his presence.
Minerva started, jerking her bow up before catching sight of him.
"I had no idea you were such a skilled archer, Minerva," he commented admiringly.
She blushed lightly and adjusted her glasses. "I haven't practiced in years, Albus. Not since I was 14 the second time," she said with a hint of mischief in her eyes, quickly gone.
Having been remarkably adept at dodging his questions, Albus focused on one she was more likely to answer. "And where will your wand be in all of this?"
For a moment he thought he caught a flash of guilt before her expression became impassive. "Centaurs are archers," she replied, "and I am leading them. Don't worry, I will be careful."
It had taken three days after the events in the Forbidden Forrest until her magic had returned. Her classes had taken a lot of notes in that time. She had no doubt that, even unbidden, her Queen aspect would appear in battle, especially considering the Narnians she would be leading. It was why she had stuck to reconnaissance and small skirmishes during the first war. Better to invoke the Gentle Queen beforehand than be caught unawares.
Her gaze grew unfocused as she remembered another war.
"Our mother sent the four of us to the country during the Blitzkrieg," she said absently. "She wanted us safe and away from the war." Minerva gave a mirthless smile. "Much good that did. If she had known…. And now look at me. In the middle of this war."
She looked up at him. "Edmund was so angry back then, angry at the world and lashing out at everyone. And we didn't really do much to help him I'm afraid."
Albus pictured the young man he had come to know in Minerva's early years of teaching. "I just can't imagine it. He was always so calm and compassionate."
"Yes," Minerva said. "Those were lessons learned almost too late."
He waited to see if she would elaborate on the past she often avoided, but she didn't. Instead, Minerva wondered at how often she had thought of Narnia of late. The memories so long suppressed rose up inside of her, and it took all she had to remain in control. There was no turning back now, no more denying Narnia. After all she had said to the centaurs, the hope and belief she had managed to communicate, the diplomacy learned as ruler of a country, she could never profess that Narnia had been merely a game. There was no more avoiding the Narnians trapped in her world.
She was alone in this, and she was terrified.
Albus seemed to sense it, and enfolded her in a hug. "You'll be fine, Minerva," he murmured. "Everything will be fine."
And for a little while she believed him.
The alarms woke Susan from a peaceful sleep. "One hour," the silver Patronus said before fading, and she leapt from her bed. Tossing aside her night clothes, she threw on a thin robe before digging through her closet. A chain mail shirt from Edmund. A vest of leather armor from Lucy. A dragonhide battle robe from Peter. All the best money could buy. All meant to defend against magic, none more so than the dragonhide. All meant to protect Susan during the first war when her siblings could not, knowing that her own magic could fail her.
With each piece of clothing she became more and more the regal Queen Susan. At last she slung her quiver and bow over her shoulder and moved quickly through the halls. Everyone she passed did a double-take, never before having seen her dressed for battle.
She issued orders to her students and none disobeyed. Indeed, they felt compelled to obey.
Luckily Albus met her by the third floor balcony. They looked at each other for a long moment.
"Is everything still going according to plan?" Susan asked at last, her throat a little dry.
"Everything is fine so far," he said as she backed out onto the balcony. "Be careful."
"You as well," she said. "Send a Patronus if anything changes." She stepped up onto the rail and looked down.
"Minerva, wha- " Albus' breath caught in his throat when she stepped out into open air. He expelled an explosive sigh when a griffin flew up with his Deputy seated securely between its wings. "That was rather cruel, my dear," he commented wryly to himself.
The trees passed beneath Susan at a dizzying rate, the wind whipping her thick braid about. For a moment she forgot about the Dark Lord and the upcoming battle. She simply enjoyed the flight, feathers soft against her hands, remembering the feeling of being carried by a griffin.
Then she spotted the dark mass of Voldemort's armies at the edge of the wards. The griffin, Galen, circled the area high enough and far enough away that they likely wouldn't be noticed. There were no surprises that she could detect from the distance, and so she said, "Let's go to the centaurs, Galen."
"Yes, your highness," said the griffin in a voice that was a cross between a screech and a growl.
Susan smiled to herself. Wizards had no idea that the griffins could speak, and the griffins preferred it that way.
He landed at the edge of the Forbidden Forest, out of sight of both castle and army. Susan leapt to the ground, and greeted Magorian who was standing watch. "We have half an hour at most before the Dark Lord breaks through. Be ready," she ordered.
He bowed and disappeared into the trees where the warriors were waiting.
On the other side of the trees where the castle rose up above them, their allies waited. Aurors, volunteers, students, and staff, all prepared to defend Hogwarts with their lives.
Susan watched the Dark army, eyes narrowed. For a moment she had a vision of a woman, a witch with icy skin and clothes white as snow, dark eyes glittering with malice and a wand of ice. She blinked and she saw instead a wizard, once a man, now resembling a red-eyed snake demon.
The creatures were to be the main responsibility of the centaurs, to begin with at least, and she made a note of where the werewolves would appear.
"Archers at the ready!" she shouted, glancing both ways down the row of centaurs.
The cracks in the wards were evident now, and the pressure built as they tried to hold back the Dark Lord. She swallowed, relieving the pressure in her ears. Was Albus all right? As Headmaster, he was the one who held the wards of Hogwarts. But surely he would be all right. They had planned this for weeks.
She and the centaurs raised their bows, almost in unison.
Susan flinched as the wards shattered, but her arrow never wavered.
"Now!" she bellowed, and one of the centaurs shot a flaming arrow into the middle of the enemy horde. The gasoline they'd soaked the ground in exploded in flames, and the first screams began. Into the confusion flew the griffins, loosing boulders among the enemy, each large enough to do a considerable amount of damage.
"Closer," she murmured under her breath as they ran at the castle enraged and in pain, watching as the werewolves raced ahead of the wizards, snarling and salivating, while the trolls and giants lumbered behind. "Closer."
"Fire!" she roared, and suiting actions to words, released the bowstring.
Werewolves, while exceedingly difficult to kill, were not invulnerable to everything but silver. After all, very few creatures survived a projectile that passed clear through the head or throat. Even fewer survived a beheading, and all of the bowmen could use a sword with great skill. It was also possible that the centaurs had dipped their arrowheads in silver to make the job easier.
She found herself surrounded by the familiar chaos of battle. The werewolves had focused on the archers, and Susan, physically weaker than the centaurs and unskilled with a sword, was forced into a tree. This time she had no horn to call for help, but she was much better equipped to deal with enemies. In addition, this tree was one of her allies, laying about with its branches when wizard or creature got too close.
Suddenly, with a deafening crack of broken branches, the tree shook and tilted. A giant had uprooted it to use as a club, and she screamed as it brought its arm back. A desperate, wild leap landed her on a broad shoulder. It didn't even seem to notice.
What do I do, what do I do, she thought despairingly. Her weapons were much too small to do much damage, especially at such an awkward angle. Susan looked about desperately for a way out of her predicament, and quickly spotted Albus trapped in a circle of Death Eaters and holding his own. Dangerous. If one of them managed to get him from behind….
For the moment abandoning her search for an escape route, Susan took aim and fired.
Albus had just dispatched most of the Death Eaters in front of him when he heard two thuds and a choked off cry. He immediately snapped a shield into place and spun around, only to blink in confusion. Those behind him were sprawled on the ground, an arrow penetrating deeply into their backs.
A faint smile crossed the old wizard's face. Even now Minerva was watching over him.
Arrows were actually surprisingly effective. They moved faster than many spells and were much harder to see. The only possible problem was that it was a long-range weapon, so it could be a liability in close quarters.
Albus used the angle of the arrows to trace them back to their source. His heart stopped when he realized that she was situated on the shoulder of a giant who had just noticed she was there. He thought he saw her shoot at its eye, desperately trying to dodge the large hand. The bellow of rage seemed to support that theory.
Blinded, the giant flailed about, trying to get rid of the annoying pest. He just managed to clip the woman and send her flying.
"No," Albus whispered. Unable to look away, he prayed for a miracle.
Out of nowhere a griffin swooped in and caught her by the arm before she could fall too far. He shifted, swinging her up to be able to wrap his two front claws around her torso, and his back paws around her waist so that she was fairly comfortable and parallel to the ground.
A curse passed within centimeters of Albus' crooked nose and forced his attention back to the battle.
Meanwhile, Susan forced her arms to stop trembling, or she would never have been able to continue shooting. Quite a few wizards on the ground were attempting to curse the griffins out of the sky, and she targeted them as best she could as she marveled at how agile the creatures were. It was lucky she had had her bow in hand rather than across her back where it would have been trapped by the griffin's grip.
She gasped as a spell caught a wing, setting it on fire as the griffin screeched in pain.
"The lake!" she shouted, and her stomach churned as he dove for the water, flames streaking the night sky. Despite the pain, he rolled right before they hit in order to protect Susan from the blow. When he released, allowing her to swim for the surface, she feared the worst. Thankfully, the griffin surfaced right behind her, although his wing dragged on the ground when they reached shallow water.
"Perhaps you should get that healed first," Susan suggested.
"No, your highness," he panted. "I am as dangerous on the ground as in the air, and I will likely be needed again before this is over."
"Then go with my gratitude," she said, laying a hand on his back.
He bowed and loped off, wings tucked close to his body.
She moved off as well, and soon stumbled across the Golden Trio. Hermione had been disarmed, and the two boys were desperately engaged in battle with a small group of Death Eaters, attempting to both protect the young witch and retrieve her wand.
With the element of surprise on her side, Susan managed to kill two before they realized she was there, and another one before they spotted her. Unfortunately, she also startled the youngest male Weasley momentarily, and a cutting curse managed to slip past his guard. His cry of pain distracted Harry, and there was no time for him to shield the next ugly Dark curse that was headed straight forward.
"Freeze, Harry!" she shouted, and he must have recognized her voice – or perhaps that was the compulsion of her rank – for he froze in place. There was no time for her to think, only act, and time around her seemed to slow. The twang of the bowstring seemed unnaturally loud.
There was a flash of light, a silent explosion, and those watching cried out and slammed their eyes closed.
"Bloody hell," breathed Ron as Harry deftly incapacitated the last Death Eater and Hermione finally managed to grab her wand.
"I can't believe that actually worked," Susan murmured, rather dazed. Her hands trembled slightly as the situation finally sank in. If she had failed…. Perhaps there was more to the magic inherent in a Queen of Narnia than the subtle encouragement to follow her orders.
Hermione must have heard her, for she was giving her a rather incredulous look.
"Potter," she said quickly. "You need to find Riddle. You need to end this as quickly as you can."
"Yes, Professor," he said, and she saw in his face a mixture of fear and determination. Peter she thought, and her heart ached for the heavy responsibilities that had weighed on both her brother and her student.
"Aslan watch over you," she said quietly, and they straightened, feeling a strange reassurance and love in the speaking of that unknown name.
Susan watched over them, hoping the blessings of a former Queen still meant something.
The few remaining Death Eaters were too close now, and frustrated by how the magic of her battle dress shielded her against their curses. All of them had felt it when Voldemort was defeated, but a few pockets of battle continued as the Dark Lord's followers grew more and more desperate.
Susan swung her bow, aiming for where they were vulnerable, head, throat, solar plexus. She even managed to jam an arrow into one's stomach with her left hand.
"Reducto!" one of them shouted, but it wasn't aimed at herself. Her bow, having been put through so much stress, easily snapped. She froze, stunned. Perhaps it was foolish of her, but she had placed the same trust in this bow as the one gifted to her by Father Christmas. That one had never been broken. Then again, this was an ordinary bow, perhaps enhanced by magic, but not invulnerable.
Oh God, she thought, pushing back her rising panic and grabbing an arrow. She would not go down without a fight.
Then she heard hooves, and saw a centaur bearing down on them, obviously having seen the Queen's plight. He trampled over those in his way, and reached out a muscular arm. Susan understood at once, and grasped it as he raced past. He used his momentum to swing her onto his back, and ran to deposit her in a safer place.
"Thank you," Susan said when they reached an area close to the castle and away from the fighting. She slid down off his back, and stumbled a bit when her feet hit the ground. "I owe you my life."
"Think nothing of it, highness," he said and left quickly.
Susan looked around, taking in the still bodies sprawled across Hogwarts grounds. It seemed almost unnaturally quiet. Scattered shouts sounded in the distance, but the battle was over for the most part.
She glanced down at the broken pieces of her bow and tightened her grip. It seemed almost like an omen.
Suddenly catching sight of long white hair, she turned and made her way to Albus. Her heart leapt at the unexpected sight. He was alive. Exhausted and trembling, she noticed as she drew close, bloody and torn, but alive.
The wizard turned as if sensing Susan's gaze, and smiled in welcome. He opened his mouth to speak when a flicker of movement caught her eye. A Death Eater behind him, wand extended. Mouth moving, words she could not hear, movement in slow motion.
"Look out!" she shrieked, surprised to find herself racing forward.
Albus' eyes widened and he turned, but too slow. Too slow.
No, not him. Don't leave me too, don't leave me alone, without any family, alone.
With one last burst of speed, she shoved him out of the path of the sickly yellow light. Instead, it struck her full across her unprotected throat. Susan collapsed, her vision blurring. A scream of rage and sorrow from the centaurs merged with the roaring in her ears.
Someone called her name as if from a great distance, and then darkness claimed her.
She did not see the centaurs strike down the offender, even as Dumbledore expended too much energy in his fury.
Something within her, or perhaps around her, shifted, and quite suddenly she found herself suspended in inky blackness. But no, she could see a glow in the distance. Before she could blink it passed over her with a rush of sound, and she found herself standing in a sunny meadow.
"What?" Susan whispered to herself, gazing down at her hands, smooth and free of wrinkles. She raised her hands to her face. She was young again, clean and refreshed as if she had never been fighting for her life. Her hair, tumbling in soft curls to the middle of her back, was free of any gray. And she was wearing a familiar gown of shimmering blue fabric embroidered with gold thread.
Susan looked up at last and let out a small, "oh!"
Before her stood Aslan, patiently watching her.
Immediately she knelt before him, head bowed and body trembling. How could he forgive her stubborn disbelief? Her weakness? Her very rejection of Narnia? None of the others had had so much trouble.
"Rise, Queen Susan of Narnia," said that familiar low, rumbling voice.
She obeyed and dared to look upon him. His tawny eyes looked back with love and compassion.
Abruptly a dam inside her broke, and Susan buried her face in his mane and sobbed. "I needed you Aslan," she whispered. "Where were you?"
"Dear one," he said quietly, "I have been watching over you always. And you did not need me so much as you thought."
When her sobs and last quieted, she stepped back and rubbed her tears away. "Peter, Edmund, and Lucy. Are they…?" Hope fluttered like a bird in her chest.
"Everyone is waiting for the last of the Queens of Old," he replied.
It was as if all doubt and sorrow had flowed away with her tears, leaving behind a deep, heartfelt joy. Susan hadn't been so unconditionally happy in years.
She looked down at herself and sighed. "If I keep finding myself young again, I will likely become confused as to my true age."
He chuckled at her words and for a long moment they were silent.
"Aslan, why did it have to be this way?"
"There were lessons your world had left to teach you, Susan." He looked past her and she spun around at his next words. "You have done well, Albus Dumbledore."
Acting on instinct, and surprised by the depth of his gratitude at the compliment, Dumbledore bowed. He was rather shocked, but hid it far better than the young wizard at his side.
Harry, meanwhile, was staring at the woman and the golden circlet that rested on her brow. She looked so familiar. Who was she? Susan arched an eyebrow at him and he sucked in a breath so sharply that he nearly choked. "Professor?!"
She smirked lightly. "Well, not anymore Mr. Potter."
"But…" he spluttered. "I-I thought your name was Minerva. And where are we?"
"Minerva is my middle name. My full name is Susan Minerva Pevensie-McGonagall."
"As for where you are," said Aslan, padding closer to the young man, "at this moment you are hovering between life and death, both of you. But," he continued as Harry stared at him, wavering between horror and wonder, "you and the Professor will recover."
Susan started, drawing their attention. "Sorry," she murmured. "'The Professor' was what we called Professor Kirke. I had almost forgotten."
"Come," Aslan invited Harry. "Walk with me."
Harry turned to follow, glancing at his Transfiguration Professor uncertainly. Was he supposed to bow?
Susan saw his conflict and chuckled lightly. "I'm still me, Potter. I haven't changed."
But Harry wasn't so sure. It wasn't the crown or title. Or, it wasn't just those things. Professor McGonagall had held herself with pride and grace, but there was a certain majesty and regality about Queen Susan. She was no longer stern, she was commanding.
And Harry was fairly certain she had never been so at peace with herself and the world. Even now, as he followed the Great Lion with apprehension, traces of a smile lingered around the corners of her mouth.
Susan watched and was glad. If anyone could help the turmoil Harry no doubt felt now that Voldemort had been defeated, Aslan could. She waited to see if Albus would speak, but for once he seemed to be at a loss for words.
"I wish Harry could have met Peter," Susan said at last. "I think the two of them would have found a lot of common ground."
He turned to face her properly. "Your siblings were aware of…this?" he waved a hand to indicate the surrounding area rather helplessly.
Susan nodded. "We stumbled upon a strange world during the war – World War II, I mean – and eventually became the kings and queens. High King Peter the Magnificent, King Edmund the Just, and Queen Lucy the Valiant."
"And what was your title?" he asked curiously.
"I was known as the Gentle."
"Well," said Albus, a twinkle in his eye, "they did not know you very well, did they?"
"Albus!" Susan exclaimed, and joined his laughter.
Eventually they calmed, and he regarded her thoughtfully. "You never spoke of this."
She looked away and sighed. "You must understand Albus. It was an accident when the four of us returned to this world after over a decade in Narnia. We had grown into adulthood, only to find ourselves trapped as children. And then we were told that we would never again return to the place we called home. After so long away, without any way of knowing what had been real, I stopped believing." She frowned, gaze turned inward. "Or, no, I pretended to stop believing, pretended it had all been a game." She looked up at her closest friend. "It hurt less that way."
Albus lay a hand on her shoulder and squeezed gently. "I'm sorry Minerva."
"But they're waiting for me," she said, a fierce light sparking in her eyes. "After all of this time." Susan laughed and threw herself at him, hugging the startled wizard tightly. "Thank you," she said. "Thank you."
"For what?" asked Albus, bewildered, but returning the embrace.
She leaned back to look him in the eyes. "For being my friend," she said. "For being there when I needed you and teaching me faith and hope. For showing me the way home. I will forever be in your debt."
"You don't owe me anything, Minerva," he protested softly as she stepped back.
"I am glad that Aslan has given me this gift of goodbye," she said.
Worry flitted across Albus' face, but Susan was distracted by another voice.
"Where are you going, Professor?" asked Harry as he returned side by side with the Lion, one hand resting on his warm back. Harry had a look about him Susan recognized. The reverence and awe – even love – of one who had spoken with Aslan. She was content. His soul was healed, and his physical body would be in time.
She watched him for a moment, committing this scene to memory. At last she spoke, sympathetically. "I'm dead, Harry."
Albus flinched at the words so bluntly spoken, and could no longer deny the reality.
Color drained from Harry's face, and he looked almost pleadingly to the Headmaster, who looked away. "But…no, you can't."
"I'm sorry that I will be leaving you," she said softly. "However, you do not know how I have longed to return to my home and my brothers and sister. Please remember that I am happy."
Aslan nudged the boy lightly, gaining his attention. "Remember what we spoke of Harry. You have done your best, and no one could ask for more."
He nodded reluctantly. "Thank you," he said quietly.
Susan surprised him with a light embrace. "I am very proud of you, Harry. You have gone above and beyond any of our wildest expectations."
He flushed at her words of praise, and nodded awkwardly.
She turned to Albus and read the guilt in his clear blue eyes. "Don't Albus," she ordered, forcing every ounce of royal authority into her tone. "If given the choice, my actions would remain the same. Again and again and again."
"You shouldn't have needed to," he said.
"But I wanted to. Witchcraft and Narnian royalty do not mix, Albus, and it was the least I could do. You won't win this," she warned. "You have called me stubborn often enough."
He laughed weakly. "Thank you, my dear."
Susan pressed a kiss to his cheek, and for a moment he grasped her hands as if he would never let her go. Then she stood before the son of the Emperor-Over-the-Sea. "Aslan, the centaurs…"
"Can you not hear?" he said, and his eyes laughed.
The three of them paused and in the sudden silence they heard the pounding of hooves and the screeching of griffins in the distance. They even, impossibly, picked out the whisper of trees underneath it all.
"And the Lost Queen shall lead the Lost Narnians home," he rumbled.
"Another prophecy, Aslan?" Susan said complainingly, but she was laughing. Had she ever been so happy? she wondered.
Harry started, but she did not notice as a low, haunting note hung heavy in the air.
"My horn," Susan murmured almost breathlessly, and moved a few paces forward as though in a trance.
"They are calling you home, Queen of Narnia," Aslan said.
She looked one last time at the two wizards held close to her heart. "We will meet again," she said, and then sternly, "though not too soon."
"Farewell, Minerva," Albus said reluctantly.
"Goodbye, Professor," said Harry quietly.
"Where to, Aslan?" she asked, her circlet glinting in the sunlight.
"Further up and further in, dear Susan," he spoke with a growl of delight, and began to run. With a shout of laughter, Susan Minerva followed.
Harry's and Albus' last image of the much-loved woman was bittersweet:
Long hair and gown flying in her wake as she followed the Great Golden Lion, who shone with the warmth of the sun.
I close my eyes, the lantern dies
The scent of awakening, wild honey and dew
Childhood games, woods and lakes
Streams of silver, toys of olden days
Meadows of Heaven
-Nightwish, Dark Passion Play, "Meadows of Heaven"