Disclaimer: All the characters belong to J.K. Rowling and her legal licensees.
The quotes in cursive are JKR's last sentence, a Robert Burns poem and Tori Amos song "Etienne"; the "Monarch of the Glen"can be found in every other Souvenir Shop in Scotland , and the encounter is inspired by Helen Mirren's scene in the movie "The Queen";
This story has been written for the Minerva_fest on LJ; Many thanks to my betas Kelly and Sarah!
Walks in the Hills - A Witch Lost in Time
All was well…
It was time!
A strange feeling of restlessness had come over Headmistress McGonagall lately. Her temper had stretched thinner than ever. She had never been able to tolerate fools easily, but something about witnessing the same pattern of behaviour in the third consecutive generation of students made her yearn to take flight.
My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer -
A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe;
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go.
Minerva felt the wind play with her hair, impatiently pulling it free from its pinned-up constrictions. But she had reached her destination now, a formation of rocks at the summit of the hill. Her old place of shelter - the granite stored the warmth of the sun and was worn into smoothness by centuries of facing the weather. Resting her back against one of the boulders, she sat down on the dry heather and closed her eyes. It was so quiet, one could hear the bumblebees taking off from the flowerheads in the bush of thistles on the other side of the rock and even make out the murmur of the small rivulet of water, negotiating its way down into the narrow valley still too far ahead to be visible.
The excited chatter and buzz of the end of term fest at Hogwarts, this year including her farewell ceremony into retirement, seemed to belong to a different world altogether, long past and far away. At present she had returned to the place of her youth, as a single woman, not quite 90 years old, with no apparent reason to do so but her unexplainable, desperate need for solitude.
She held her breath when the majestic animal appeared all of a sudden. It stood very still at the ridge, its crown of antlers an imposing sight, and it was fixing her with attentive apprehension. Minerva returned its gaze and did not move, either. She had heard tales of the "Monarch of the Glen" since her childhood; to meet him in such a close encounter this day seemed to be of some strange significance. He was by definition not a magical creature, but there was an aura of power and wisdom about him nevertheless. He symbolized the vast and lonely highlands of her home, and she felt herself grow calm and quiet looking into his eyes. After a long moment, the animal sensed that she was no threat to him and took up grazing at the slope.
Up to now, there had never been much time for reflection in her life. She had come to know years of apprehension, while dark powers gained support, followed by years of constant vigilance, while helping to organize the resistance, and years of grieving and pain, losing so many friends and even former students during the fights; and then, after a short respite, she had to see the drama start anew. The second time especially, Minerva felt it her responsibility to keep the younger generation out of danger. In retrospect, everybody who had known the young Tom Riddle shared a duty to put an end to the terror which the grown man inflicted upon the world. And at the end she, unlike the young ones, had really nothing left to lose.
Maybe I'm a witch
Lost in time
Running through the fields
Of Scotland by your side
Hear the west wind
Whisper my name
By the morning
Maybe we'll remember
Who I am
The wind came from the southwest today and smelled of late summer; it caressed her skin like a featherlight brush. A deep sigh escaped her throat and she fought to keep the tears at bay.
'Oh, my dearest love, how are you now – do you still remember me, wherever you are?' It was almost 10 years ago, that evening when Albus had called her to his office to tell her… as usual he had been one of the first to learn the terrible news of another deathly attack, and he was one of the few who knew what this latest victim meant to her.
Things being as they were, she had to do her mourning in private and keep up an impenetrable façade. But the loss had shaken her whole being, left her feeling empty and hollow. Even though the two of them had only ever been able to see each other for a few stolen weeks during the summer and some rare weekends in between, those times had been her life's saving grace and the place her dreams would take her at night. Minerva remembered how much had changed for them both in the course of just a few days when she had met, for the first time, the outspoken, dedicated Law Enforcement officer at a Ministry event. They had each chosen the sometimes lonely life of an unmarried woman out of conviction, and the road that opened to them when they recognized each other was an unexpected present they never stopped being thankful for. Society would had found it unacceptable, especially given her own position, but she knew that Albus, who held his own particular beliefs on most things, did support her.
Somehow the vast silent landscape, made of different shades of blue, the darker patches cast onto the hills by the shadows of the clouds, was a fitting image of her emotional state. And at the same time, the place brought back the memories of those glorious hours long ago, and she longed to let herself drown in them – now, that she finally was free of obligations and of expectations to meet, not considering it her duty any more to be an epitome of strength, a pillar of support, never to crack. She recalled the easy laughter that marked their summer holidays and the touch of her lover's caresses on her skin.
And while she felt the warmth of the sun and the breath of the wind, she slowly unbuttoned the top of her blouse and let her right hand run up her thighs underneath her skirt. For a moment she fought a silent battle with herself, having always considered it a weakness to give into such carnal desires. But just as she had not always been able to keep her emotions in check, now was one of the times she surrendered to her body's aching to evoke some of the pleasures of the past. While the tears finally started to flow, she let herself drift off into a vague state somewhere between dream, memory, acute passionate longing, and despair.
I close my eyes
See you again
I know I've held you
But I can't remember
Where or when
The days of summer went by. Days in which the clouds would cling heavy and grey on the mountains, and the rain would not stop at all found her buried deep in books and parchment, translating and calculating, writing and erasing and losing any sense of were unexplained aspects of Transfiguration she had come across during her times as a scholar, questions which she had to abandom when she left had lingered in the back reaches of her mind all these years, and it felt so right to finally sit down and concentrate on those neglected academic problems.
The days on which she woke to a soft breeze and rays of sunshine were spent outdoors. While she was walking amongst the surrounding hills and valleys, her mind went through years of memories, smiling at the happy ones and trying to make peace with the painful and sad recollections. And when, at the end of September, the nights started to grow longer than the days, she knew she was ready at last to lift the spells she had cast around her house, wards that had made it impossible to reach by any magical means. She had found new strength in the rough and self-reliant nature of her homeland, and to be here on her own had helped her immeasurably in healing the previously unacknowledged sorrows and pain.
Not even three days later there was an owl impatiently pecking at her windowpane, and with raised eyebrows but also an amused smile, she relieved the animal of its roll of parchment bearing the Ministry's seal and Kingsley's trademark shade of green ink….