Chapter 5

The Lost Years

It was pretty late when the both women went to bed that evening.

Septima just cuddled with a book in her bed to read a few pages when she heard the soft noise of stepps in the next room. She sat up in bed and asked:
"Minerva? Is that you?" to immediately kick herself mentally for that stupid question. Who else could wander around the house at this time of night, since noone else was there?

There was a soft knock on her door and the doorknob turned gently. Minerva peered carefully through the doorcrackand Septima looked at her from above her reading glasses.

"Did you call me?" Minerva asked.

"I've heard steps and I wanted to know if it was you. A stupid question of course, I know. There is anyone else except us."

"Ah." Minerva remained pensievely at the threshold and looked at Septima – or more at what she could currently see of Septima.

She was buried under her blanket, only her head stuck out, her silver hair loose and she balanced her reading glasses on her nose. The flickering light of the oil lamp thrwe dubious shadows at her face and made her nose appear longer and more pointed than usual.

At the moment the very face grimaced to a gentle smile.

"Are you unable to sleep?"

"I haven't been in bed", Minerva admitted. "I guess I slept too long this afternoon, I'm wide awake."

"If you like to talk, you're welcome. But then come in and don't remain at the door!"

Septima waved her closer and gestured invitingly at her bed.

Minerva opened the door completely and walked in.

Septima looked at her and lifted her eyebrow at the view of Minerva's long flowing nightshirt

"This is highly erotic!, she commented dryly. "When was it fashionable? At times of Queen Victoria? "

„Just slag me off", Minerva said and settled herself at the foot end of Septima's bed. Her greying hair fell in loose waves over her shoulders and she and impatiently she pushed it back with her hand.

Septima took her reading glasses off and pout them together with her book at her bedstand; then she looked musingly at Minerva.

"You know, there is something I can't get off my head. You siad this afternoon this was an old muggle house. You're not growing up here?"

"No."

„Where else? I've been under the impression that you would return to your parent's house during holidays."

"My parent's house doesn't exist anymore."

Septima raised her eyebrows in surprise.

„What happened?"

„I'm not sure if I want to talk about."

„You don't have to if you don't want to. But, even when you consider myself unbearable nosy, I would be interested in your story. I know so less about you."

Septima looked at her openly and Minerva responded her look thoughtful.

"It's a pretty long story", Minerva objected.

„We have the entire night."

"Al right."

Minerva thought for a moment where to start.

"I was bron and bred in Aichillidh Bhuidhe, or Achiltibuie, like people call it, nearby Lochinver. Also then it used to be a terribly small jerkwater town and never changed since these days.

My family had a small, however pretty nice house somewhere outside the village."

Minerva needed a moment to sort out her thoughts.

"Did you have siblings?"

„Yes, I've had a brother. Angus, he was six years younger to me and a real funster." She smiled. "You can picture him as a forerunner of the Weasley twins. Alsways full of mischief and always up for playing tricks on someone. He had only one mistake, he prided himself too much on being a pure blood."

"Let me guess. He was in Slytherin."

„Yes, the sorting hut send him off to Slytherin. And there met certain people whose sharpened his attitude about this issue. Eventually he looked down on all mudbloods and his tricks becamer meaner."

Suddenly Minerva's face looked severe and sad.

"I talked to him like mad to give up this nonsense; I told him to think about if he was so much better than anyone else just because he was from an old magic family. He laughed at me. I asked Dumbledore, my Professor for Transfiguration then, to talk to Angus, because I was worried about him. I don't know to this day what Dumbledore told him, but I'm sure it must have been something Angus didn't want to hear. During his fifth yer at Hogwarts he gone too far, one of his tricks went wrong and little Billy Roberts almost died. Albus could prevent the worst, I thjink that he never stopped at keeping an eye at angus. Well, Angus was expelled, his wand got destroyed; the usual thing. He was send home, but he never arrived there."

"Where did he go?"

"I don't know. He reappeared at home years later, a ragged and broken-down man in which I could hardly recognized my little brother. It worked my mother over, she got ill and never really recovered."

"Have you been a teacher at Hogwarts then?"

"No. After graduation I did the usual excursion through the magical world like most people did then. Afterwards I published some poublications about Transfiguation, nothing people would read, but it was enough to obtain acceptance in circles of experts. I've still had regular contact to Albus and we worked together on certain subjects. I used to work for the ministry of magic for a while, but it wasn't really my cup of tea. Well, and then Gellert Grindelwald appeared. I'm sure you have heard of him?"

„I've heard of him, yes, but I was too young to notice. I haven't even been to Hogwarts and I didn't knew that I am a witch, let alone that here is something like the magical world."

"It was dark times then. Grindelwald wasn't as bad as You-know-who, but it wasn't a picnic either. People simply disappeared, Muggleborns were ostrasised. Until Albus started out to stop him. Shortly after my brother came home. He acted as if he was a total stranger; he was cold, arrogant; there was nothing left of that friendly little boy he used to be. He didn't stay long and disappeared again. Nobody knew what he had done during that years or where he went. He just went, without a word, without an explanation. But rumours spread their way. Rumour had it that he was between Grindelwald's most trusted men. And whenever it came to playing horrible pranks at some Muggels he was with them at the sharp end. We were outcasts by the wizarding world, I lost my job at the ministry. My mother couldn't face it all, she gave up. She – she just died. So it was only us three left. My grandmother, my father and I. The McGonagalls always were pretty stubborn, both had decided to weather through it and to not give in. I guess I inherited that stubbornness from them. „

Minerva smiled aloop.

„Eventually this issue ended. It wasn't forgotten, but people decided to ignore it. Albus took me as a teacher at Hogwarts, shortly before he wa promoted Headmaster and I got his post as Professor for Transfigurations. Everything turned to good account. At least for a while."

Minerva fell silent.

„For a while? What happened next?"

„The raise of you-know-who", Minerva replied gloomily.

„And your brother became a Death Eater?"

Minerva nodded. Hawing, interrupted by many breaks Minerva continued telling the rest of her story:
"He became a Death Eater. The whole mess started over again. We were interrogated at the ministry, many times, they threatened my father to send him to Azkaban prison if he wouldn't tell them the whereabout of my brother. What he couldn't, we never knew where he was. We hadn't seen him for years. To Angus' luck, if I had meet him…"

„…You would have killed him."

"Yes. I gave him – and give him till now – a joint guilt on my mother's death. I was only glad that she didn't need to see how low her son had gone", Minerva replied fiercely.

She had a tired draw around her eyes which on one hand scared Septima, but on the other hand awoke the desire to hug and comfort Minerva.

"Was your father sent to Azkaban?"

"No, luckily not. They had no hold to imprison him, he hadn't done anything. Albus spoke in our favour; he never let me down. Albus was the only true friend I had during that time. Well, Angus. The Aurors were able to catch him and he was sent to Azkaban for life imprisonment. I haven't been to this process, but I read it in the newspaper that he betrayed the names of some Death Eaters to buy himself free. But they imprisonend him nevertheless. During summer vacation I went home, as always. And one evening, when I returned from a walk, I could see the Dark Mark at the sky. I stood like frozen, for an eternity and then I run like I've never run before. Just to notice that my parent's house was destroyed and that my family was dead. I stood in front of the ruins like rooted, I was unable to think straight. Rumours travel fast and rumours of catastrophies travel on an especially fast broomstick. Albus showed up and took care of me. And it was him who could save a few things for me out of the house."

"The portrait of your grandmother."

„Yes, that as well. He brought me back to Hogwarts to have me safe and a he relieved me of the formalities. During that time he founded a secret society to fight against You-know-who and to finally defeat him. I was one of the first to join this order. The fight was drawn for a long time, then we even lost ground. That was when I bought this house here, a piece of ideal world in which nothing ugly existet and where I could leave the real world behind. Then that Halloween night happened, in which You-know-who entered the house of the Potter family. When the curse rebounded from Harry and You-know-Who lost his powers we all were free to breathe. By and by all the Death Eaters were rounded up. You know what happened back then."

Septima had followed Minerva's story with knitted eyebrows and shook her head now.

"What happened to your brother? Is he still in Azkaban?"

"No. Authorities informed me that he did die and that he's buried within the prison walls. Except me there is anyone left, I'm the last of the McGonagalls."

Minerva paused a short while, then she straightened her shoulders and peered at Septima.

"So. What do you think now?"

"I need to sort out my thoughts. It was much you've told me."

She looked pensive at McGonagall.

"But I believe that I begin to understand why you're often that reserved and where your love for justice comes from. You and your family bore lots of misery, you have been through much harm. That is enough to have an impact on you and some others would have been destroyed by it. If you have the preposterous fear that I would esteem you lower than before, you can be relieved. On the contrary, I admire your strength which brought you through this whole affair."

She sat up, reached out and touched Minerva's arm.

"Heavens, you're as colöd as ice, you will catch a cold. Come under my blanket."

Septima glided by side to make room and lifted her blanket invitingly so that Minerva could slip under it. After short hesitation Minerva left her place at the foot end and huddled under the blanket.

"My goodness, you truly are an icicle"", Septima scolded her low and took Minerva's cold hand into her own.

Minerva turned her head and watched Vector's face who lay, supported on her ellbow, next to her and watched her attentively.

"I'm glad you told me everything", Septima went on with their former subject. "It was a very hard time for you and I wish that I knew you back then. I don't think much of people who make poeple suffer for someone else's mistakes."

"It's nice to hear that. But when you started in Hogwarts everything had happened. At that time except Albus only Flitwick was already a teacher here - and of course Hagrid. Hagrid is a good hearted fellow who never thinks badly about others, especially not if Albus trusts them. Alas, Filius maintained a low profile, but he has never outlawed me or has been in any form impolitely to me. Not all of my colleagues are cowards or submitted to prejudice. But I wasn't sure how somebody who didn't knew me would react to that story. I was more vulnerable then and I consciously kept people at bay. I just didn't want to hear or talk about anymore. And they would have asked me pover and over again if they had known me closer."

„So you enclosed yourself to keep away from all trouble."

"Yes. But times have changed. Nowadays I wouldn't allow anyone to hurt me willingly."

"That sounds harsh."

„Yes, may be. But I've learned from my past. Some things are too painful to live them again."

"You can't avoid being hurt."

"I know that. But I can minimize it by choosing carefully whom to trust and with whom I wish to be friends."

Septima nodded.

„I am honoured that you consider me worthy to trust in."

Minerva gave her a sharp look.

"Are you mocking at me?", she asked suspiciously.

„No, Minerva. I am really glad that I was able to break your defences. I've already shown you – more or less clearly – that I higkly esteem you and that I want to be friends with you. And the last time has proven me right with that. I have one question though..."

„Which is?"

"What about Snape?"

„What's with Snape?"

„He also was a Death Eater. Do you feel therefore any grudge against him?"

„No. Severus put he brakes on and left the Death Eaters. He is not a bad guy and I just think that he deserves a second chance. Albus trusts him and that's good enough form e."

„And possibly he reminds you of Angus? What could have been if he had putt he brakes on?"

„Yes, possibly", Minerva admitted after short musing. "I often wonder how I could have argued him out of it, Angus, I mean. What I could have done that he wouldn't have devoted himself to this people. But I still don't know the answer."

„Minerva, it's not your fault. Nobody is responsible for the actions of another being. You did everything to point him out that he was on the wrong way. You are not responsible."

„After all I know that", Minerva said hushed. „But still this story keeps on running in my head. Even after all this years."

„You've told me nothing about your private life", Spetima changed the subject and revolved the venes on Minerva's back of the hand with her finger.

Minerva smiled cheerless.

„There is not much to tell."

"You can't tell me that. An intelligent and attractive woman like yourself must have had one or another admirer."

„Sure, there were a few. But my family difficulties successfully put them to flight." Minerva grimaced. "Either that or my stubbronness. I've never been a typical cuddly female who spent the evenings waiting with a ready dinner and warm slippers. Apparently that was expected of me. But I always had my own mind and my partners could hardly cope with – or even not." A mirthless smile crossed her face.

„So I settled in my existence as an unpaired woman – and I settled quite well. It doesn't mean that I am less worth just because I have no husband or children."

"You won't hear any protest on my part", Septima murmured.

"What about you? Why are you still running around without a wedding band?"

"I've never been in a situation in which I would have had to marry. Or wanted to. It never arose from a situation and I cannot claim that I miss something. Although that nice blonde, Kenneth was his name, almost had me wed him."

"What went wrong?"

"He was far too jealous. If it was to his pleasure I would have to wear sackclothes and ashes to that anyone would look at me. And Howard, a Muggle, couldn't stand it that I am witch. After a lot of shouting at each other we split up and I had to change his memory."

Septima shook her head.

„Do you remember Tiberius Ogden? I mean in his prime?"

"Of course I can. He was my Arithmancy teacher."

"Yes, my favourite subject. I was head over heels for him and tried to be best in his classes."

Minerva looked at her.

"That explains a lot", she noted dryly. "You've really been into old Ogden?"

„You haven't? He had something spezial."

"No, I wasn't ever interested in Ogden."

„You accentuate that strangely. In whom were you interested?"

„Woe betide you if you laugh! Or I'll hex you from here to North Pole."

"No. It was – Albus?"

"Don't be ridiculous. No, it wasn't Albus. I had a certain faible for Professor Merrythought."

Septima sat up straight.

„Professor Galatea Merrythought? Professor for Defense against the dark arts?"

„How many teachers of that name do you know? Of course this Merrythought."

„I'll be damned! The well-behaved McGonagall who looks as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth was nuts about her teacher! Sorry, I shouldn't laugh", she quickly added, when Minerva frowned.

"What interesting things else did you conceal? A steamy carry on with Filch?"

Minerva agitated.

„Why of all things are you thinking about him?"

„Perhaps because he regularly almost falls into my cleavage. But I'm accustomed to grief."

She pointed at her, from her flimsy nightshirt just poorly covered breasts, before she added:

"On the other hand I am vain enough to take pleasure when I arouse such attention."

"At least you're honest", Minerva commented dryly.

"Well, I never claimed to be an angel. I let off enough steam. I was a would-be rebel. You know, the good girl who'd like to be a bad one."

"Sounds as if you made the most of your youth."

"Not only that. But I don't want to see twenty again. "Your twenties are torture, really, because you don't know what you are going to be or whether it's all going to work out, and you are supposedly an adult but you haven't really learned anything. You're always looking for your own place in the world, but you're insecure -You think you're wonderful one minute and you think you're a disaster the next. No, I really don't want to be that young and foolish again."

„I don't know, perhaps you're right. I don't want to be that young again and to live that part of my life again. But on the other hand, just think about how it was. I was young, full of ideals, ready to go out and leave a mark in the world. I've lost my idealism somwhere on my way and I started to see the world exactly as it is and not how it should be. Anyhow I can see how it could be and that's what I'm working for. And everytime when I see a student who understands what really is important in life, who chooses the right way and not the easy one, who understands what I'm trying to teach him, then I remember why I do this job."
Minerva looked at Septima.

„By the way, my hand is warm now, thank you."

She deprived Vector of her hand who hadn't let go of it during the whole talk.

„You're welcome. What about the rest of you? Has it become warm as well in the meantime?" Probingly she strechted out her feet.

"You've still very cold feet. I can't believe it."

She moved closer to Minerva until her bodies touched. Septima could sense through the fabric that Minerva's body still felt cold.

"What are you up to? Do you want to hold my feet as well, now, when you're done with my hands?"

Septima threw her an askew glance.

"Not only the feet. I just see that the rest of your body isn't any warmer. No backtalk now!", she said categorical; put her arm around Minerva and drew her closer to herself.

For a moment it seemed as if Minerva wanted to object, but then she complied and snuggled into Septima's arm.

"Yes, this is really nice and warm", she stated and added secretly:

'And so comforting.'

„I just hope you don't want to lead another profound philosophical discussion", Septima noted yawning. "I'm getting a little tired now."

"Then every discussion would be completely uncalled for; I wouldn't get any iuseful answer from you", Minerva replied dryly, turned her head and took a glance at Septima who had her eyes closed.

"Are you sleeping?"

„Mmh?"

Shortly after Septima's deep calm breaths betrayed her that she was really sound asleep. Minerva smiled gently. If she wouldn't want to wake up Septima she would have to stay over night in her bed, if she wanted to or not.

Carefully she reached for Septima's wand at the nightstand to turn off the oillamp and then cuddled back into the pillows. That soft movement was engough to disturb Septima in her sleep; Minerva felt how Septima's arm wrapped tighter around her and gave up ever thought of getting back in her own bed. Especially she had to admit to herself that she didn't mind to not be alone this time. It felt surprisingly good to lay in Septima's arm in the darkness and to feel her warm soft body next to her own. It almost felt too good if she was honest with herself. A smile crossed her face, she cuddled her cheek against Septima's and enjoyed the warmth and softness she felt. Like of its own volition her hand glided searchingly above Septima's body and finally she wrapped her arm around Aseptima's waist what she answered with a pleasant growl but without waking up.

Somewhen Minerva's eyes closed and comforatbel in Septima's embrace she fell asleep.