Albus Dumbledore has been gone from Hogwarts for a week. Two of his colleagues are missing him dearly.
Things came to a head on Wednesday morning, one week after the Headmaster had left Hogwarts—and not returned.
Students had been sensing such a confrontation for seven days, and many were uneasy. They were not used to seeing their normally so calm and strict Deputy Headmistress acting so irrational. But she was.
She was snappy, for a start, at everyone. No one could do anything right; and when she took more points off the houses than any other teacher (including Professor Snape) in one day, even the other members of staff started to notice.
Things was, Minerva was missing her dearest and indeed oldest friend. She had know Albus Dumbledore since she had been a student, and he had been the one stable influence in her life, considering she had gone from being such a student to becoming a teacher relatively quickly.
And of course, being his deputy meant that they convened at least once a day to discuss important, trivial and recreational things. She was missing his presence at the table at mealtimes, his generally absentminded and thus ill-timed humour, and his ability to wind others (especially a certain Potions' Master) up.
His replacement and reason for leaving angered, sickened and irritated her. The "Pink Cloud" was a menace, amping up stress and, in Minerva's opinion, sticking her nose in everywhere where it was not welcomed. Where it would never be welcome.
As it was, Minerva was not in her usual state of mind. She was nursing a terrible headache, and although the day had only just begun, she found herself wishing to be shut way in her office, with a beaker of Scotch—no, make that a bottle—and a roaring fire. And so when Dolores Umbridge swept around the corner and made some clipped comment about Minerva's "archais" teaching methods, she felt something inside her snap.
Severus Snape was tired. Tired because he had been called out to a Death-Eater meeting the night before. Tired because, when he had tried to sleep, he had remembered the amount of marking he had to do before the morning. Tired because—and this reason surprised him the most—Hogwarts was not the same anymore, and that made it all the more stressful.
Thus, as he was tired, he was generally grumpy. More so than usual. Students irritated him, even his precious Slytherins, and he found himself spitting more biting insults as the days wore on. Wednesday morning was never a good day—two lessons, one after the other, of Gryffindors and Slytherins. First years and second years. This added up to his own personal hell.
Umbridge was annoying and infuriating, and that did little to add to his mood. He had not had contact with the Headmaster in one week, which meant all his information had to be transferred to the Order—and he could not tolerate them for more than a minute on good days.
He was prowling the corridors, glaring at those who happened to cross his path, robes billowing out behind him, when he heard the shouting. And he turned the corner and there, before him, was a quite triumphant Dolores Umbridge watching with a raised, mocking eyebrow as Minerva McGonagall practically had a mental breakdown in front of her. Shocked and stunned students were watching, as Minerva shouted at the woman.
"Now, now, Minerva, surely you ought to calm down? I'd hate for you to follow your beloved Dumbledore's fate." Umbridge taunted.
Severus moved quicker than he thought himself capable of. He swept forward, placing himself strategically between the Headmistress and the Deputy Headmistress. "Headmistress." He announced, his voice soft and slightly more polite than usual. "I believe Professor Sinistra is looking for you; Peeves has been causing problems on the seventh floor."
Umbridge looked at him, glared at Minerva, and then headed in the direction of the staircase.
Severus glanced at the students, "Unless I am very much mistaken," he began in a tone that clearly demonstrated that he was not, "You all have places you should be." He nearly smirked as the students disappeared very quickly.
He turned to Minerva, who was recovering herself. She glanced at the younger man, "Thank you, Severus." He had been a very welcome distraction at the perfect time, and she was grateful to him.
He stared at her for a moment. "I was wondering, perhaps, if we should discuss current developments?"
She nodded. "I would like that."
Contrary to popular belief, Minerva and Severus got on very well. Severus clearly respected her, and although they indulged themselves in banter over house rivalry, Quidditch, and thus virtually every other topic under the sun, they had bonded and developed a close friendship in the fifteen years Severus had been teaching.
Severus always remembered that Minerva had been the fairest of his teachers, and thus he owed her more than she knew.
Once they were both sat down in his office, unwilling to go to hers, Minerva sighed. "I need to keep myself under control."
"She had no right to threaten you in such a way." Severus pacified, passing her a beaker of Scotch. She smiled at him. "You missed most of the show."
"She clearly had upset you." Severus answered.
"She suggested that I was being archaic, once again, in my teaching methods. At least my methods get results!" Minerva massaged her forehead with one hand.
There was silence for a long moment.
"I miss Albus." And she surprised herself that she had finally admitted it—and to Severus, of all people, who did not understand many emotions and hardly showed them. But at the same time, perhaps she thought he would emphasise. Because, and she knew very well, Albus was a huge part of Severus' life too. Perhaps moreso than he was in Minerva's.
Severus nodded slowly. "I do too." He echoed.
She glanced at him. "But of course you do. He is your support network. I should have realised that other people would be just as affected as I. I just...wish he was here."
Severus rubbed his arm uncomfortably. "He will return."
She glanced at him. "Are you sure?" And her eyes were bleak. "As the Ministry gains more power..."
He leaned across the gap, and before he had truly formulated the gesture, took her hand in his. "Minerva. We will find a way. Hogwarts is not Hogwarts without Albus Dumbledore." He paused, "Until then, we have to hold on to whatever we have. Both of us."
She looked down at his hand, clutching her fingers. She wondered if he was repeating that mantra to himself, trying to convince himself that one day, Albus would step back into Hogwarts. She looked in his eyes and saw the tiredness and the anxiety that festered. "Of course."
And they did not let go of each other's hand, united by their love for Albus Dumbledore, their pain at his absence and the faith they had in his abilities.