The old warrior had long come to terms with the simple truth that Death Comes to One All. No escaping that pithy platitude, even if you were a mythological Peverell lad clad in an invisibility robe, clutching a wand and a stone in your hands. These days, he was feeling every one of his old wounds and his missing body parts. He had thrown the dice long enough to reckon the odds, and the chances were long against him surviving this latest sortie.
Being the rarest of souls, a pragmatic romantic, he had to say his goodbyes, especially to her. The simple truth was that he owed her that much, if not more.
Their relationship blazed and burned, exploded and combusted, shredded and frayed their very souls. Until that one black day, when they accepted whatever love they felt for each other simply couldn't endure another round of conflagration. Best if their twisted relationship was ended, cleanly, with a surgical swiftness, so some fondness and friendship remained.
In time, the warlock took another lover. And in spite of his lover's youthfulness, he still possessed enough poise and composure to balance the old man's fire, a magnanimous heart to accept that not all of his older man's heart belonged to him.
The grizzled vet unhunched his shoulders, brushed off his dragonhide jacket and vest in a noble yet doomed attempt to get rid of decades' worth of abuse, and then straightened his windblown hair, before he pounded on her door to demand entrance. Immediately, she grasped why he was there, not only to inform her of his preparation, but more importantly to say a final goodbye and to apologize for what had gone wrong between them. The passion between them, never truly dormant, flared anew. As before, they argued and fought, ripped open the old scars and then cauterized the wounds. In time, she found herself giving the old wizard a true warrior sendoff.
In her bed.
The next day, she sat in her parlor, staring at the enchanted candle. It had always remained lit, even during the darkest of days, when he had lost his eye and his leg. Intently, she watched the light flicker and dance before it seemingly faded for good. It was then that she knew the truth of it. The warrior had fallen, his final battle fought.
When the knock came at her door, she knew who it would be. Recklessly, she opened the door, mentally hearing the old warrior roundly curse her for her heedless foolishness. What if was THEM, come for HER?
No, it was that younger man who was there, kufi in hand. His composure was fracturing, he was struggling to hold it together long enough to report. He had come to her, as he felt it proper for him to inform her that the warlock had fallen in battle.
She pulled him inside even while he was reassuring her that the plan had succeeded; the young boy was safe however the old warrior had died.
"I couldn't find his body," the younger man explained. "I went back and I couldn't find it. I couldn't find it. There was a group of them there, searching for it, and I had to leave. I left his body there like he was a dead dog in the street."
His composure shattered at what he deemed the ultimate betrayal and he keened. A soul shredding sound as he broke down into tears, voicing the grief he felt. Instinctively, she embraced him, letting him express his grief because she understood what he was feeling. The others... they lacked the true comprehension of the old man. Let them be blinded by the scarred wreckage of the handsome man he had once been. They had never known the compassionate soul that had bled from the pain of caring too much. Or of his stalwart belief in the necessity of defending the weak and innocent. But the young man comprehended and his heart was shattered. In his grief, he had turned to the only person he knew would truly understand the maddening contradiction known as Alastor Moody.
The witch held him until his tears stopped. And she continued to embrace him even after he kissed her. It was only a brief buzz on her lips though his normally graceful hand was on her top button, awkward and still.
To her horror, she realized that he knew. Knew that she had given the old warrior a proper sendoff. That she and the old warrior had an on and off affair for all the years he and the younger man had been together. A handful of times, no more, with the two vowing secrecy so not to wound the young man.
Now the old man was truly gone, the young man desperately desired to be close to him one last time. And in his eyes, that meant her. Because she had always been the one closest to the old man. Not him, it had never been him, but it had always been her.
And the wizard was watching her, his grieving dark eyes intense.
A slight nod of her head was her answer.
The morning after was always uncomfortable, Minerva knew. However, today's morning after easily won hands down for the most awkward ever. Alastor was dead, and Kingsley Shacklebolt was in her bed.
That was most assuredly a mistake.
Yet Kingsley Shacklebolt had been so bloody needy for closeness, how she could refuse him? Even if that meant bedding a witch old enough to be his mother.
While sex with Alastor was passion and fire, intensity and enthusiasm, Kingsley had been tender and considerate. She was older, soft and saggy and the muscular Kingsley was so very much younger and so fit. When she and Alastor coupled, she hadn't been so terribly self-conscious of how time had not been kind to her. Because they had been together for decades, so they had grown accustomed to their physical changes. The two of them, they were damn proud of their physical changes, as every gray hair proved that they were survivors. With Kingsley, she was hyper aware of what time had done to her, that her breasts were no longer firm and as perky as they had once been. The four stunners to her chest thanks to Dolores Umbridge's insanity had left noticeable physical scars. To her deep embarrassment, the perceptive Shacklebolt had noticed her distress. The younger wizard had done his noble best to assuage her doubts by a time tested method - by shagging her through the mattress most of the blessed night long.
And there had most assuredly been the ghost of Alastor Moody in her bed. What had occurred between Kingsley and her hadn't been a mere coupling, it had been a threesome. Kingsley may have physically loved her, but emotionally, he had been loving Alastor.
Moody had often bemoaned the fact that she and Kingsley weren't sociable. It had distressed him that the two people, to whom he was closest, gave each other such a wide berth at the meetings of the Order. It was amazing to Alastor that she and Kingsley had never sat down for a cuppa and a long, commiserating bitch session about Moody and his various quirks.
His hopeless naivete proved Minerva's deeply cherish belief – that Alastor was a daft prat.
He might be a tactical genius in the realm of wizard warfare but in the affairs of the heart, he was an utterly gormless idiot. He just couldn't grasp the idea that she and Kingsley had both separately decided that if it wasn't for the war against You Know Who, that they'd be quite content never to talk to each other. It wasn't that the two of them didn't like each other, but really, they had nothing in common.
Except for the simple fact that they were both incapable of being 'the one' for Alastor.
There was some flaw, some intrinsic trait in them that would drive Alastor off to find solace with the other.
Kingsley was spooned against her, his muscular arm wrapped around her. His breathing was slow and deep, which meant that he was asleep, while she was most assuredly wondering how to handle "The Morning After." Alastor's last request of Minerva had been for her to keep an eye on Kingsley if anything should befall him.
That thought made her eyes well with tears and she struggled to keep her composure.
Somehow, she doubted Alastor had meant this.
Consoling Kingsley in the very same bed that she and Alastor had used the day before.
Well, at least she had changed the sheets, so it wasn't like she was a paid by the bedding whore in Knockturn Alley. She had standards. Clean sheets, for one. Fresh knickers, too.
First step was how to escape his embrace without waking him. She was debating the best way to flee from the bed when Kingsley spoke.
"He never stopped loving you," Kingsley stated. His deep voice was free from recrimination. "You were the love of his life."
"Kingsley, he loved you," protested Minerva.
"Minerva, you were the fire that blazed in his soul. He loved you with every breath he took," was his rebuttal.
"A fire that all but consumed him. You gave him peace, Kingsley."
"Alastor wasn't a man of peace, Minerva. He was a fighter."
Really, there wasn't any way Minerva could disagree with that.
After a rather perfunctory kiss on her cheek, a somber Kingsley left her bed and her house following that conversation. To her surprise, he returned a few hours later, burdened down with bits and pieces he thought she'd wish to have. There were pictures of her and a handsome Alastor, back when he had two eyes and both legs. There were presents she had given Alastor, a few books inscribed with flowery affection to him, a love letter or three that Alastor had kept.
Knowing that Alastor had wished them to be friends, Minerva brewed Kingsley a cuppa and offered him some ginger biscuits. At first, he seemed keen to refuse but she insisted and so he stayed. The only sound was the clink of china teacups against the saucers. They really didn't need to say a word as her hand was tightly clasping his.
Alastor's death had affected her far more deeply than Minerva at first realized. Perhaps the tears that would fill her eyes at the oddest moments were not only due to her grieving over Alastor's death but also lamenting Albus' passing. Or perhaps the tears were tears of rage as Severus Snape, Albus' murderer was now Headmaster of Hogwarts. Her sleep was fragmented and she managed to stay on her feet through sheer grit alone. Her body pained her with a deep bone ache and she lost weight as she simply wasn't hungry. Filius kept tempting her with food while Poppy kept plying her with vitamins, tonic and potions but the very idea of food nauseated her.
Scottish through and through, she daily faced Severus Snape, head unbowed, her eyes bone dry. Because she would stand between the Death Eaters and her students to defend every single one of them, even if they were Death Eater kin. It was only in the middle of the night did she allow herself the luxury of tears.
It was late September when she was called into Dumbledore's office for a brief meeting. Yes, Dumbledore's workplace as it would never be Severus Snape's office.
"Professor McGonagall," was the devil's standard sly greeting.
"Professor Snape," was her automatic response.
"Headmaster Snape," was his quick retort. "Perhaps you may not have realized that I have been promoted."
She knew the boy he once was, how he had craved the respect of his peers and like hell would she grant him the honor of addressing by the title of his murdered predecessor.
"Professor Snape," Minerva repeated. "I had not heard that you had been promoted. As far as I know the position of Headmaster remains unfilled after Professor Dumbledore's swan dive off the Astronomy Tower."
That caused a reaction. A violent reaction as Severus Snape struck his hand again the desk so hard that she thought it possible that he might break his hand.
"Damn it, Minerva," he raged. "You must learn your place, woman!"
He might have said more but an exhausted Minerva blacked out. She never realized that a deeply troubled Severus Snape prevented her from cracking her head against the floor or that he tried to rouse her.
When she woke, she was in the infirmary. Filius Flitwick was sitting next to her and he gave her a quick flash of a mile when he realized that she was awake. There was a loud altercation outside the closed door to her ward and Minerva grimaced when she realized who the combatants were.
"Headmaster Snape, Professor McGonagall will be fine. She has a severe case of Lithuania Lurgy and requires bed rest and clear fluids. An interrogation by you will not be conducive to her recovery."
That ringing voice was Poppy Pomfrey.
"I do not remember that Professor McGonagall was ever in the habit of flitting of to Lithuania, so I fail to understand how she came down with Lithuania Lurgy."
"Perhaps a student had a mild case when they came to Hogwarts. Lithuania Lurgy can severely affect older witches especially if they're run down. You've been working her too hard, Headmaster Snape."
Severus protested and Poppy gave him the rough side of her tongue. That was Poppy, as she believed her in her domain; she was equal to any Headmaster of Hogwarts. Be they Albus Dumbledore or an upstart murdering Death Eater that Minerva had once called friend.
"Lithuania Lurgy?" Minerva asked Filius. "Is there even such a thing?"
"Of ye of little faith, yes, there is a syndrome caused Lithuania Lurgy. It's not very common, but we had to think fast to find a real illness that has symptoms that matches your condition." Filius shook his head. "Too many people have been watching you, Minerva. We can't risk that they figure out what you've been hiding."
"I've been hiding?" Minerva repeated.
"Minerva, please. Do you really think I wouldn't notice?" Filius asked. "Minerva, I have four children, a dozen grandchildren and a horde of great-grandchildren. I do recognize when a woman has fallen newly pregnant. Do you need me to contact the father and get him here?"
"Filius, I'm not." Minerva sputtered. "I'm menopausal. After I took the stunners to my chest...I haven't cycled since. It's been months since I last..."
"Minerva, witches and wizards do not age the same way Muggles do. You know that for a fact, as I would be long dead if I were pure human Muggle. Some witches have remained fertile until they were far older than you are now."
No. There was no possible way that Filius could be correct in his assumption. She was seventy years old and barren to boot. Because if heaven forbid, Filius was correct, Minerva wasn't sure who the father was.
In her desire to prove Filius that he was in the wrong, she permitted him to stay while Poppy discussed her fainting spell.
"Filius believes that I am pregnant," she informed Poppy. "Please inform him that he's mistaken. I am in menopause and I cannot be pregnant."
Poppy swallowed once and glanced at Filius, as though for reassurance, before looking at Minerva. Her eyes were warm and sympathetic.
"Minerva, you're ten weeks along," Poppy informed her.
"I beg your pardon?" Minerva asked, wishing to confirm what she heard. Her heart was racing and Poppy shook her head. She sat up and both Filius and Poppy motioned for her to lie down.
"You need to lie down, Minerva. If you continue to insist on this inhuman pace of yours, you will lose the baby. Your blood pressure is extremely elevated and you are on the verge of complete physical collapse."
"Do you want me to get the father here?" Filius repeated.
"Filius, I feel you will not think very well of me when I confess that I do not know who the father is," Minerva slowly admitted. "While I fear to bear tales of the dead, is there any way we can confirm if Alastor Moody is the father?"
Well, it wasn't though Alastor Moody was around to protest his character assassination. Or to loudly deny paternity.
"Normally, we could, but your pregnancy is too high risk right now to even think of doing an elective spell like that. I'd like to put you in St. Mungo's." Poppy put up her hand to silence Minerva's protest. "I know you won't agree to that. Nonetheless, you need bed rest, Minerva and no visitors. However, there is someone who wishes to see you. He's quite insistent."
"You cannot possibly believe that I can deal with Severus Snape right now," protested Minerva.
"No, it's Kingsley. I contacted him after you collapsed," explained a somber Filius.
"What?" Minerva questioned. "You had no right!"
"Minerva, it's been two months since Alastor Moody died. It's also two months since you conceived. If Alastor is a possible father than it only stands to reason that Kingsley is most likely suspect for the other father..."
"Damn your Ravenclaw logic, Filius. Did you tell him that you believe him to be the father?" Minerva asked. "Send him away, Poppy. Please."
"Minerva, he wishes to see you because he's concerned. He came here at great risk to himself. If any of those Death Eaters catch him here there will be problems," Filius reminded her.
"I'll see him, but he's not one of the possible fathers," Minerva lied.