Ghaist nor bogle shalt thou fear;
Thou 'rt to love and Heaven sae dear,
Nocht of ill may come thee near,
My bonie dearie.
~ Robert Burns, "Ca' the Yowes to the Knowes"
When Minerva McGonagall woke in an unfamiliar room, the pain that gripped her chest when she tried to sit up told her immediately both where she was and why she was there.
A thickset, balding man in a green robe hurried over to her bedside.
"Professor McGonagall, welcome back. Do you know where you are?"
"St Mungo's, if I'm not very much mistaken," she answered, her voice creaky with disuse.
The Healer smiled. "Yes, good. And can you tell me who is Minister of Magic?"
"Cornelius Fudge, unless the old fool has finally managed to get himself the boot."
He smiled again. The quick return of her even quicker wit was an excellent sign. His Quick-Quotes Quill took notes on a small piece of parchment that hovered next to him as he dictated, "Patient oriented as to time and place," while he passed his wand slowly over Minerva's torso. "A-fib resolved. Patient is in consistent normal sinus rhythm. Repeat q two hours to establish baseline."
He turned his attention back to his patient. "So, how are you feeling?"
"My chest hurts; I'm not certain about anything else just yet."
"I'll have the mediwizard on duty bring you something to help with the pain."
"Thank you, Healer . . .?" She searched for his badge and failed to read it in the absence of her glasses.
"Any relation to Davy Gudgeon? He was one of my best N.E.W.T. students a few years back," she said.
Healer Gudgeon gave a little bow. "At your service, Professor."
"My gods, it can't be!" Minerva exclaimed, sending a quick stab of white heat to her chest. Her hand flew to where it hurt and found a thick bandage.
Gudgeon said, "That can come off in a few days. The skin is healing well."
Minerva was taken aback to realise her former student had been tending to her chest, but she told herself to stop being silly. It would happen more and more often as she got older, given that most of the witches and wizards in Britain younger than age fifty had at one time sat under her watchful eye in the Transfiguration classroom.
"I can't believe little Davy Gudgeon is a Healer at St Mungo's. I remember you as a wee, timid thing so anxious to prove your Gryffindor mettle you went and got your eye nearly knocked out playing that foolish game with the Whomping Willow," she said, trying not to laugh, which she knew would hurt like the dickens.
"That's what gave me the idea to go into Healing. What I remember most, though, is the dressing down you gave me afterwards. I think it scarred me worse than my injury," he joked, pointing to a jagged, faded cicatrice just below his left eye.
This time she did laugh, and it hurt quite as much as she had expected.
"I'm sorry, Professor," Gudgeon said. "I'll get that mediwizard right in with your pain potion."
"When can I go home?"
"Not for at least a few days. You gave everyone quite a fright."
"I assure you, it was not in the least my intention," she said. "Can you tell me a bit about what happened? It's not entirely clear to me. I was Stunned, was I not?"
"Yes. Four ruddy times!" Healer Gudgeon's face flushed with anger. "Frankly, you're lucky to be alive. For someone of your—"
"Age," she finished for him. "Yes, I quite agree. You must be an excellent Healer," she added kindly.
"I had wonderful teachers. And of course, you wouldn't have survived to get to me without Madam Pomfrey's quick thinking and considerable skill."
It wasn't the first time Poppy had saved her life, Minerva thought to herself, then pushed the thought away.
"How long have I been unconscious?" she asked.
Shock made her mouth go dry. "Do you think I might have some water?" she said after a moment.
"Of course," Gudgeon pointed his wand at a glass on the side table and filled it with an Aguamenti. "And you can try eating something if the water stays down," he added.
"Thank you, Mr Gudgeon, Or I suppose I must call you 'Healer Gudgeon' now."
"Just 'Davy' is fine, Professor. I'll order you that pain potion now. You get some more rest," he said, reviewing his notes before turning to go.
At that moment, she noticed a translucent, silvery figure hovering quietly in the corner of the room. She recognised it as a Patronus, and the familiar avian shape told her whose it was.
"Just a moment, Mr Gud—Davy. How long has that been there?" she asked, indicating the silvery Phoenix.
"Oh, I had almost forgotten about your guest," Gudgeon replied, chuckling. "Been here since you arrived, and we couldn't shoo it away. Madam Pomfrey assured me it would be fine to let it stay. Do you want me to see if we can get rid of it?"
"Oh, no. I'm rather fond of it, actually." She was grateful to Poppy for her intervention; it was comforting how well her friend knew her.
"All right," the Gudgeon said, knowing better than to invade Professor McGonagall's privacy by asking more about her mysterious guardian.
When he left, Minerva looked over at the Patronus. She knew it must have taken a prodigious feat of magic for it to have stayed by her side for two days, but of course, her husband was no ordinary wizard.
What surprised her more and filled her with quiet joy was knowing that it meant Albus had been thinking of nothing but her since he found out about her injury. A corporeal Patronus took tremendous focus, and to maintain it for more than a short time would require that he concentrate on his happiest memories and nothing else. To keep it standing vigil by her bedside meant that the memories were likely of her and that they were of a quantity and intensity to fill forty-eight hours.
The realisation that he had two days' worth of them and that he was willing to drop whatever he had been doing during his enforced absence from Hogwarts in order to focus on them—on her—gripped her with a familiar emotion so overwhelming that it was nearly pain.
It took a few minutes before she was ready to release him. When she could finally trust her voice, she summoned her own prodigious magic.
The simple Alder stick that had been her constant companion for nearly sixty years flew from the wardrobe to its familiar berth in her small, still-trembling hand.
When she finally spoke, she pointed her wand at the Patronus and said very quietly, "Thank you, darling. I'll be fine, now. I miss you," then silently performed the spell to send the message. As the ethereal Phoenix vanished into the air, she had stifle a sob. She had not been able to add, "I love you" before her throat had closed on the emotion.
It was all right, she thought. He knew.
More in the Epithalamium Series
For anyone who is interested, there are links and information on the backstory for characters and events in the "Epithalamium universe" on my website ( ).
If you'd like to know more about Minerva and Albus's adventures, you might enjoy the following stories, set in the same universe.
Bonnie Wee Thing | Epithalamium #0.5 ~ A short story that takes place on the day of Minerva McGonagall's birth.
One to Keep an Eye On | Epithalamium #0.72 ~ Young Minerva has her first Transfiguration class. It does not go as Albus expects.
From Jupiter's Head | Epithalamium #0.75 ~ Thorfinn McGonagall observes his daughter, Minerva, as she grows up, and finds that she is a very unusual witch.
Epithalamium | Epithalamium #1 ~ An epic romance novel that follows Minerva McGonagall from her seventh year at Hogwarts through her first year of teaching.
1945 | Epithalamium #1.5 ~ An excerpt from Epithalamium. Albus Dumbledor travels to Germany to confront Gellert Grindelwald.
Come Autumn, Sae Pensive | Epithalamium #3 ~ A novel following Minerva McGonagall and Albus Dumbledore through an unexpected pregnancy and its aftermath.
Winterreise | Epithalamium #3.5 ~ A short story about tension between Minerva McGonagall and Albus Dumbledore.
Familiar Rituals | Epithalamium #3.6 ~ A short story about some end-of-term rituals and how Minerva McGonagall became Head of Gryffindor House.
Mammals of the Order Chiroptera | Epithalmium #3.7 ~ A short story in which Severus Snape observes members of the Order of the Phoenix at closer range than he would perhaps like.
Ca' the Yowes | Epithalamium #3.8 ~ A fluffy short story featuring Minerva McGonagall just after the Stunner attack in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart | Epithalamium #4 ~ A novella about the lengths Minerva McGonagall and Severus Snape must go to in the prosecution of the war after Dumbledore's death.
This work of fiction is based on characters and settings created by J. K. Rowling. All recognisable characters, settings, and plot elements are copyright © J. K. Rowling.
The author believes this work falls within the scope of the Fair Use Doctrine as a transformative work. For more information, see the Organization for Transformative Works.
All original characters, settings, and plot elements are copyright © 2010 Squibstress.
This work of fiction is available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.
The works quoted in the story are in the public domain, with the following exceptions: