All known characters and places belong to JKR.
This story was written as a gift for my friend's birthday; Chemistress wanted to read a story about Minerva and Prof. Vector and in the role of Vector she pictured Dame Helen Mirren.
So I did my very best to grant her wish, but I also had lots of help writing that story.
First to mention is my beta Angie Snape who helped me a lot; also my friend and long-time beta Lapislazuli who never lets me down and last, but not least QueenHelen who is a great fan of Dame Helen Mirren and therefore paid special attention to my Septima.
Special Thanks go to my friend EverTheDreamer who was kind enough to proofread my English translation of this story.
Love never asks
Chapter 1 At the beginning was the darkness
It was a cloudless, silent night. The stars silently pulled their roads about the sleeping landscape and the moon painted the grounds of Hogwarts in a delicate silvery light. Although a breath of cold lay in the air it could not deceive that it was soon summer. The castle clock showed far past midnight.
Professor Septima Vector stretched the midnight blue robe a little tighter around her strong shoulders and continued making her way through the dark castle grounds. A light breath of wind played with her silver-grey hair and pulled separate strands from her loose bun.
Since her fifth-years had been examined in Arithmancy today, the stress was at least over for her and she only wanted to stretch her legs and relax a little.
After all, she and the other teachers had to fight with complicated conditions that year: the High inquisitor and ministry spy, Dolores Umbridge, and the elegant and stylish flight of Headmaster Albus Dumbledore after he had been accused by Umbridge of forming an army from students against the ministry. Not to mention the return of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, even if the ministry was persistently denying this news so far.
But Vector trusted in the word of Albus Dumbledore.
Certainly, Dumbledore might be off his rocker from time to time, so she thought, but he was scarcely wrong. Besides, Minerva McGonagall trusted him without any reservation and that alone would have been enough for Vector. She admired and trusted McGonagall's intelligence and courage very much. Lost in these thoughts, she didn't notice that she had unconsciously led herself to Hagrid's cabin.
An unexpected glimmer of light startled her from her contemplation.
From her place at the edge of the forest she observed the castle's gateway opening long enough to spit out six shadowy forms before it closed again and the glimmer of light expired. Surprised, Vector shook her head. She was used to strolling around the castle late at night, but she rarely met anyone. And now this pack of dark forms promised to be interesting. Spellbound, she remained and observed what was going to happen.
The shadows, first a small dumpy silhouette, moved quiet quickly towards Hagrid's cabin and darted along the illuminated windows.
"Umbridge", Vector whispered astonished. "What does she wants down here?"
A roar, only moderately subdued by the distance, made her wince and the following bang made her heart beat faster. Hagrid's door had flown up and was surrounded by a rectangle of yellow light as Hagrid's solid form stood on the threshold, roaring and threatening with his fists. Six people surrounded him and shot radiant-red flashes at him.
"Stunning spells! They're attacking Hagrid with stunning spells!" Septima cried angrily, starting off in a run to intervene in these events. To her relief she saw the stunning spells bouncing off him and she supposed that the reason had to be his giant's blood. Still, the bright red lights flew around before the cabin and she observed the way Hagrid defended himself energetically.
Tattered calls penetrated up to her:
"Be reasonable, Hagrid!"
"Reasonable be damned, ye won' take me like this, Dawlish!"
Septima watched Fang throw himself in front of his master to defend him until he was caught by a stunning spell and collapsed at Hagrid's feet. Hagrid howled out in fury, grabbing the culprit and threw him some feet through the air, after which the culprit he did not get up again.
Another shape approached, running to the scene.
"How dare you! How dare you!"
"Minerva!" Septima panted and tried to call the upset woman to her side.
"Leave him alone! Alone, I say!" McGonagall shouted through the darkness. "On what grounds are you attacking him? He has done nothing, nothing to warrant such…"
Septima Vector gasped as the shadows around the cabin shot no fewer than four stunners at the upset professor.
Halfway between the castle and the cabin, she was caught by the red rays. For a moment, she looked luminous as she glowed in an eerie red before she was lifted off her feet. With a dull impact, she fell to the ground and moved no more.
"Minerva!" Vector gasped in shock as she ran over to the motionless figure, "Minerva!"
"Cowards!" bellowed Hagrid, "Ruddy cowards! Have some o' that an' that!"
Hagrid knocked out several of his attackers before he took Fang on his back and escaped together with him.
Septima didn't pay attention to this scene, though, as she knelt beside the unconscious Minerva.
"Enervate," she muttered, directing her wand at her motionless colleague.
"Enervate! Come on, Minerva, wake up! Enervate! Oh damned, Lumos!" Septima's wand glowed with golden shine and illuminated the near-by environment. Septima held her wand next to Minerva's face to see her.
"Minerva! Can you hear me? Minerva! "
Not even the tiniest muscle twitched in McGonagall's pale face to say that she was still alive.
"Minerva, God damn it, come on! Enervate! Come on! Open your eyes! "
Vector sighed and still the quiet figure lay pale and motionless before her.
"Expecto patronum! " A silver lion escaped from the tip of her wand and jumped with wide strides up to the castle to alert Madam Pomfrey in the hospital wing.
Vector pulled off her robe and wrapped it around Minerva before she pillowed Minerva's head on her lap and looked thoughtfully at her pale face.
"Don't you dare simply abscond," she whispered and pushed back a strand of hair from Minerva's forehead. "Don't you dare to simply give up, Minerva. We still need you. "
She placed her hand at Minerva's cool cheek and looked up the dark grounds, full of the hope Madam Pomfrey would be on her way down to them.
"Hold on, Minerva, Poppy is on her way here, she will take care of you. " Gently she stroked with her fingertips over McGonagalls cheek, she conjured her with words, looks and delicate touches to hold on until help came.
"Septima?" it sounded from the distance. "Septima!"
"Poppy, we're here! "
For the first time Vector lifted her gaze from Minerva's pale face and awaited the approaching Poppy.
"I was on my way to bed," she gasped and shook back her flittering hair. "What happened?"
"She wanted to defend Hagrid and was hit by four stunning spells at once."
"Have you tried Enervate? "
"Of course, I am not a first year! "
"I'm sorry, Septima, I just want to make sure. "
She throw a grief-stricken look at her patient.
"At least you've kept her warm. Not that it has much use, but it can't hurt either. Help me with the stretcher."
Without any further ado, Madam Pomfrey conjured a stretcher and let it hover down to the cool grass next to Minerva.
"We shouldn't shake her more than needed"; Poppy said and lifted her wand. "Help me."
Together they levitated McGonagall onto the stretcher and made their way to the hospital wing, the stretcher hovering between them.
"How could that happen at all? Who attacked Hagrid?"
"Umbridge. Umbridge and a few of her henchmen from the ministry. Such a cowardly cloak-and-dagger action seems very like her," Vector snorted, filled with indignation. She threw a worried look at the silent figure at the stretcher next to her.
"I was outside by pure chance and I overheard the scene from afar, so I set off to help Hagrid. Minerva had to have heard it too; at least she came down from the castle bristling with anger to stop them. I called her to warn her, but she hadn't heard me. If I had been a little bit faster…"
"… I've had two patients to take care for," Poppy ended the sentence dryly. "Look at the door!"
Together they towed Minerva into the hospital wing and onto the next bed.
"I have to see where she was hit. You undress her and in the meantime I'll fetch my ointments and potions."
"I don't think that Minerva would like that", Vector objected and folded her arms over her curvaceous breasts.
"I don't think that Minerva would like it if we just leaver her here," objected Poppy and left the room.
"Well," Vector sighed and started reluctantly to hex Minerva's clothing off her, always trying to bestow her most possible degree of privacy.
"Septima, if you don't look what you're doing, you won't do any good," finally Poppy's voice rang behind her and Septima almost jumped in the air by shock.
"Good Lord, Poppy, don't scare me that way!"
"Septima, what the hell are you doing there? I told you I have to see the injury. Stop this useless dilly-dallies."
"I just think that Minerva always puts such a value on her privacy. I am the wrong candidate to help you with this. Isn't there someone more helpful?"
"Of course, I could ask Snape, but I believe that Minerva wouldn't like that at all. Now pull yourself together and stop acting so prudish. I haven't seen many other people swimming in the black lake nude. "
"But that's my choice, Poppy. If I want to go for a swim sky clad, it's my deliberate decision. Minerva does not have this choice."
"If you fear for your collegial relation I won't tell Minerva anything about it. Although I feel certain that a logical woman like her wouldn't make a drama out of it. Now don't stand there as if rooted to the spot and help me. And, please, look at what you're doing! "
Wordlessly, both witches freed the patient from her robe and Poppy clicked with her tongue disapprovingly when they had exposed the injury.
"Just look at that! How could they do that to her?! It's not too bad since she is unconscious; otherwise she'd suffer awful pain."
Septima also look carefully at Minerva's mistreated chest and took a sharp breath when she saw the discoloured and distorted flesh.
"Oh my God", she mumbled, "That looks like a burn. "
"Essentially it is like that," Poppy explained while she started to treat the wounds. "Here, hold the ointment for me."
Automatically Vector stretched her hand out while she watched half appalled; half fascinated how Poppy's expert hands worked.
"So many stunners at once develop enormous heat, that's why there is a burn. And the tissue around it is bruised a lot from the power of the jinxes that hit her. But I fret much more about the inner damages. I only hope that the organs were not damaged too much, especially the heart and the lungs."
"Can you do something about it?"
"Not much," Poppy answered shortly, "that's why I informed Severus. He's contacted the healers from St. Mungo's. They'll take care of Minerva. They'll be here soon," Poppy looked gloomily at Vector, "even though I would prefer to keep Minerva and treat her myself. But that is far beyond my qualifications and I want to know that she'll be in expert hands."
Vector simply nodded and softly touched Minerva's cheek.
"That's useless, Septima. She won't feel it," Poppy said as she looked at Vector's hand.
"Are you really sure about that?"
"No," Poppy confessed, "I've never cured such curse damage from stunning spells before. I just hope that she doesn't feel anything."
With a very practised swing of her wand, Poppy applied a bandage around Minerva's chest and sheeted her with a blanket.
"Just on time," she said when she heard a knock at the door before Severus Snape walked in with two men dressed in lime green robes
"Have you prepared her for transport, Poppy? "
"I did what I could, but I'm afraid I couldn't do anything for her inner injuries." She spoke to the healers.
"That's why I think it is better if you take her with you and treat her in-patient."
"Professor McGonagall got four stunners in her chest? All at once?"
"It seems that way."
"All four stunners hit her at once", Vector interjected, "I saw it. And I hope that I never see it again."
The men nodded and Severus threw a thoughtful look at Vector, which she didn't notice.
"How did you treat her? "
Poppy rattled through the ingredients of her ointments and potions, making one of the healers raise his eyebrow in astonishment.
"That is a very demanding dispensing. How could you get that ointment?"
"We have a very distinguished professor for potions," Poppy retorted in a chilly manner. "Severus Snape is a luminary in his subject and he produces lots of potions and ointments for me."
"Snape? You have…?"
"Yes, I have", Snape answered coldly. "Are you surprised?"
"No, I didn't want to…"
"Can't you discuss that another time?" Vector interjected with a worried look down at her colleague.
"Don't worry, we'll take care of her", reassured the other, until now silent healer.
From the tip of his wand, long golden rays poured out to smother McGonagall. Then he nodded at his colleague and Snape.
"Professor, if you would lift the enchantment so we could disapparate?"
"Apparate? You want to apparate with her? In her state?" Vector met the men with disbelief.
"I've prepared her for transport," the silent healer explained and gestured towards the golden aura surrounding McGonagall. "Transporting won't harm her, I built up a kind of shield around her which absorbs every shock and takes care so that she won't be shaking."
While he was speaking, both healers had repositioned themselves at the front end and the foot end of the bed and Snape had lifted the enchantment.
"You can disapparate now."
Snape waited impatiently until the two men had disappeared with McGonagall before he recreated the enchantment.
"How could it be that you can lift that enchantment?"
"Let's say that Dumbledore thought it wise to provide for such a risk," Snape answered, bored, before he turned round and left the room.
Vector looked after him, "If he wasn't as good as he is in his subject, I really would like to teach him some manners. He's as cold as an iceberg!"
Poppy put her hand on her arm calmingly, "Snape isn't not that bad, Septima. Sure, he has terrible manners, but in his heart he is a decent person. Otherwise Dumbledore wouldn't trust him."
Vector shrugged vaguely. "Perhaps. I don't know how you feel, but I'm dog-tired and need to go to bed," Vector turned to leave.
"Me too. Good night, Septima," Poppy patted her back friendly.
"Good night, Poppy. And don't worry too much." And for herself she added: "It's enough if I worry. "
The very next day, Vector apparated to Saint Mungo's to ask after Minerva's state of health.
She paused at the plump blond reception witch, asking, "Where do I find Minerva McGonagall?"
"4th floor, 3rth door, Dilys-Derwent-Station. But I'm afraid you'll be wasting your time. She is still unconscious."
"That is my concern," replied Vector definitely, rushing by a swinging door and a narrow corridor to the staircase. She rose till the fourth floor and went up to the said third door. This carried the label: "Dilys Derwent station: Serious spell damages."
Vector took a deep breath to prepare her and opened the door. From afar, a hushed lament met her ears and her steps echoed loud in the quiet corridor.
Seeking help, she looked out for someone who could tell her which room Minerva was in. She wasn't fond of the idea to having to look in every single room.
Finally lime green robed healer scurried over the corridor and Vector called him, "Excuse me, can you tell me where to find Minerva McGonagall?"
"That depends on who you are. Basically, she isn't allowed to have visitors."
"My name is Septima Ilyena Vector. I found her after the attack."
"I am principal healer Asklepios Astralagos. I'm responsible for your friend's case. You are her friend?"
"If one considers that we've taught together for over twenty years, I guess one can say that we're friends," answered Vector slowly.
"Well, otherwise you aren't allowed to visit her. You said that you found her?"
"Yes, I was there by chance when it happened. I tried to wake her up with an Enervate-Charm, but it hadn't worked," answered Vector gloomily.
"I daresay that it saved her life."
"Why? It hasn't worked."
"The force of the curses damaged her heart. Without your counter curse it would just have stopped beating. But your enervate restarted it. It was lucky that you'd been there immediately, otherwise we wouldn't have been able to do very much."
Vector turned pale. "The worst?" she whispered.
Astralagos nodded seriously. "I bring you to her now, but please, do not expect too much. Professor McGonagall is still unconscious."
Vector nodded silently and followed the healer to a small room at the end of the corridor.
"We've put her a little bit apart, so that she has more peace. I'll leave the both of you alone now, but please, don't stay too long. "
Astralagos left the room and Septima moved the visitor's chair next to the bed, sat down and seized Minerva's cool hand.
"You must know, Minerva that I just lied mercilessly to your healer. I claimed that we are friends; otherwise he wouldn't have let me visit you. Although, that was only half a lie," Septima immediately limited and stroke back a strand of her silver-grey hair from her forehead.
"I'd like to be friends with you, Minerva. I like you a lot and I esteem your courage and your intelligence. … Just in case you never noticed." She addressed a piercing look from her anthracite grey eyes at the unconscious woman as if she wanted to look into her soul and wake Minerva up with that look.
"You know, Minerva, usually I'm not a vengeful person, but I do really hope that I can get hold of these idiots. I'd like to wipe the floor with them." A weak smile flickered across Septimas corners of the mouth.
"But your intervention was successful, Hagrid was able to escape. And not without distributing a few strong swings. I bet Dawlish has the feeling he was knocked down by a Hippogriff ," she added gleefully, bending forward a little and carefully straightening Minerva's blanket.
"By the way, I should send you Poppy's best wishes. She's worried because she can't treat you. But I really think that you're better off here. Nothing against Poppy," she added almost hastily, "however, she says that she's never seen such a degree of damage, not to mention healing them. I'll be glad when you're with us again, Minerva."
She caressed McGonagall's hand for the last time then she stood up, "I probably should leave you in peace now so that you can recover. Don't set your hopes too high," she added mischievously. "I'll come back this evening to unnerve you again."
She looked down at the quiet figure, and then she bent forward spontaneously and breathed Minerva a kiss on the forehead. "I'll see you later. And don't do anything stupid!"
After a last thoughtful look at McGonagall, Septima turned and silently left St. Mungo's.
That evening, she returned and sat at Minerva's bed. And the day after.
And every time she told her what happened in Hogwarts during her absence, said her "Hello" from Madam Pomfrey and some other colleagues and didn't notice that her phrasing was becoming more and more intimate.
"You know, Minerva, that thing within the Department of Mysteries was really unbelievable. And we finally got Dumbledore back! Now everybody knows that he was telling the truth for the whole year. I wouldn't be surprised if he permanently got rid of Umbridge. That man is always good for a surprise."
"You can say that again," the hoarse voice came from the bed.
Septima disbelievingly lifted her gaze and her smoke grey eyes looked directly into Minerva's blue eyes.
"Minerva! You – you're wake!"
"Apparently. If you'd be kind enough to give me a glass of water? My throat is completely dry and sore. "
"Of course, Miner- Professor McGonagall." Mechanically Septima lifted her wand and conjured up a glass with water. Carefully she supported Minerva's head to facilitate her drinking.
"Thanks, but I think I can do that on my own," she answered with a croaky voice and took the glass from Vector.
"Well, now I feel much more like a human", she stated afterwards and gazed at Vector.
"And now I'd like to know what happened. It seems as if I have lost some of my memories. And for goodness' sakes, sit down; I'll get a headache if I constantly have to look up to you."
Septima stifled a relieved grin, Minerva had found back to her usual crabbiness. She obediently sat down again to update McGonagall's memories.
"Four stunners at once? So I don't need to wonder why my chest feels as if Hagrid tap-danced on it," she mumbled afterwards. "It's a wonder I'm still alive."
"Certainly, Min- Professor. It seems as though your heart was damaged. If I hadn't been there…"
"I'd probably be dead," Minerva completed the sentence and threw a surprisingly stern look at Septima. "Don't you want to forget that 'professor-thing'? Seems as if we were friendlier, at least you constantly slip your tongue."
For a moment Septima was tempted to simply affirm this statement, but then her veraciousness won. "No, we haven't been this far", she admitted. "I just felt it easier to talk to you on a more private level while you were unconscious. But I really would like to be friends with you," she added spontaneously, "I really like you a lot, Minerva."
"I gathered that, otherwise you wouldn't sit here ," it came back from the bed.
"Was that a 'yes'?"
"I do think so. How long do we work together? For twenty years?"
"Twenty-two years. "
"And I never invited you to call me with my first name?"
Minerva tried to shook her head, found out that it did not drop and tried it again little bit more energetically.
"Hard to believe. I really have to be a dragon sometimes. "
Vector laughed out loud, such a cheerful and infectious laugh that Minerva had to smile.
"Was that also a 'yes'?"
Septima shook her head laughing. "You really seem to feel better," she noticed cheerfully.
"Of course, otherwise I would still linger in the Never-Never-Land," she replied dryly. "Nonetheless I will turn you out; I think I'd like to take a little nap. Perhaps that will make Hagrid stop tap-dancing on my chest."
Septima stood up smiling and turned to leave, "I'll return tomorrow."
"See you tomorrow then."