Author's note:

Hi Guys – here it is – the final chapter / epilogue. I will skip a whole year in my story – so Dumbledore is dead, and the trio has been gone on their search for horcruxes. Starts again after the final battle.

Present:

Hogwarts lay in ruins. Minerva McGonagall was slowly walking through the remains of the Great Hall and gave comfort wherever she could. Lord Voldemort was defeated but the price had been too high for her taste.

She should have been desperate due to the sadness around her but she was simply exhausted and deep within her incredibly grateful and happy that her son was still alive.

Never would she forget the moment when Voldemort had arrived in the courtyard – next to him Hagrid with Harry's limp body in his arms. She thought her life would end at this very moment. It felt impossible to breath and her heartbeat stopped for a moment. She had let out this desperate cry which had startled and shocked everybody. Yet, she had not cared to show her utter despair in this moment when she thought she had lost everything.

The past year had been nothing but an endless trial for her. First, the death of her best friend and late lover Albus Dumbledore. Only the thought of protecting Harry had kept her going afterwards.

The time when Harry and his friends had gone on their mission had been unbearable. She was more than grateful for the strong bond they shared since she always felt that her son was alive at least. That was all she wished for at the time.

Being strong for her students had been demanding with the changes at school – changes within the staff, the new headmaster, new laws. It had taken all her strength and energy besides from her worry about Harry.

Tiredly, she sat down on a pile of debris and waved off Poppy who passed by and sent her worried glances. She knew she did not look well – her hair was still a mess, her robe in shreds and for sure some of her wounds were clearly visible in addition to her limping. She could not care less.

She saw the trio come back into the castle. Ron and Hermione were walking hand in hand and went directly to the mourning Weasley family. Harry though spotted her and came into her direction.

Silently, he sat down next to her and cautiously put an arm around her – hoping not to hurt her. She let her head sink on his shoulder and grabbed his hand. Touching and feeling the other seemed important right now – words would come later. They remained close and silent – ignoring the stares of others. Relief flooded through both of them.

'Shall we go into your quarters?' Harry asked his mother finally.

She nodded and stood up shakily. 'Yes, I will just have to make sure everybody will have a space for the night.'

Harry watched her worriedly while she got Pomona Sprout and Filius Flitwick in order to discuss the necessary arrangements for the rest of the day.

Her colleagues looked slightly better and persuaded her to take a rest while they would make sure everything was settled for the first night after the battle.

Minerva returned to Harry and put an arm around his shoulders. It served two purposes in this moment – be close to him and try to take the weight from her injured leg. Harry frowned at her limping and quietly looked for Madame Pomfrey. He spotted her in one of the corridors – tending to a wounded student.

Ignoring Minerva's annoyed looks he led them into Poppy's direction and stopped a few metres away in order to not disturb the mediwitch.

'Harry, I am fine. We can go to my quarters directly. I just need a break and will be good as new soon.'

He glared at her and shook his head in amusement. 'I hope you do not believe what you say, Mum. Otherwise, I will conjure a mirror for you. We are not going anywhere before Madame Pomfrey has seen you.'

Minerva rolled her eyes 'That should be my sentence. Well, if it makes you happy…'

Harry grinned at her 'It does.'

Madame Pomfrey was finished with her patient and approached them with a surprised look.

'Minerva, are you letting me check on you finally?'

'My son is forcing me. No need to worry.' Was the short reply through clenched teeth.

'Sure. Let me check on you quickly anyway – now that you are here.' Madame Pomfrey moved her wand around the headmistress for some diagnostic spells and frowned every now and then.

'Well, my dear friend – nothing which I cannot heal but I would say you received quite a few blasts. I would highly recommend to take it easy for the rest of the day. As soon as I get the necessary potions I will bring them to your quarters. Harry, please make sure Minerva rests!'

Harry nodded and Minerva pulled a face. 'Poppy, it' s not exactly the right time to take it easy. I have to restore the school.'

'Minerva, first of all, you do not have to restore the school on your own – there are plenty of talented people left to help you with this. And I want you to take a break today – I am not stupid enough to ask for more since I know you well enough. Remember?'

The headmistress nodded in defeat and grabbed Harry's arm again.

'Alright. Let's go, Harry.'

They made their way slowly through the remains of the castle and stopped in front of Minerva's quarters. She took a shaky breath and ordered the damaged portrait to let her in.

Luckily, her quarters were not badly damaged and she let out a sigh of relief. Exhausted she sat down on the sofa while Harry fixed a few minor things before he joined her.

'Thank you. I could not be bothered right now.' Minerva put her head on his shoulder and stared ahead.

'You are welcome.'

They were both silent for a while – just enjoying each others' company and trying to suppress any thoughts and pictures of the battle. It was too close and haunting at the moment.

'How was your year at Hogwarts' Harry asked her quietly at some point.

'Dreadful' was his mother's short reply. 'And yours?'

'Demanding and also dreadful.'

'Will you tell me everything? Fill in the gaps?' the question came rather softly while Harry had expected the strict teacher to come out demanding to know everything.

'Yes, I will. Not today though. Soon…'

Minerva nodded. 'Okay. That will be soon enough.'

Suddenly, she smiled at him and got up slowly. She limped into her office and came back with her pensieve and a memory phial.

'I had a look at some memories myself while you were gone. And I think this last one might be nice to watch together.'

She settled down next to him and pulled him close. They briefly looked at each other and dived into the pensieve.

Memory XXXXVII:

Minerva McGonagall was apparently the supervising teacher on the grounds of Hogwarts this afternoon. She was glaring at several students when it would become too loud or rough to be ignored. Slytherin lost a few points during her guard.

She went further and caught Remus and Sirius peeking around a corner and giggling.

'Gentlemen, care to elaborate the source of your enjoyment?' her voice was stern as usual.

'Ehm, nothing Professor McGonagall.' Sirius grinned at her and pulled Remus away with him.

Minerva looked after them and shook her head with an amused smile on her face. Cautiously, she had a look around the corner herself.

Lily Evans was looking at James Potter with a dreamy expression. They were holding hands and James was leaning in to give her a soft kiss.

Minerva backed away and smiled at the blossoming young love. James Potter after all! Purposefully, she strode in the opposite direction to leave them their privacy.

The memory jumped forward.

Minerva sat at her desk and was once more marking essays with the familiar frown on her face.

She was interrupted by the arrival of Lily Evans.

'Sorry, Minerva – I did not mean to disturb you.' She was a bit breathless.

'You never disturb, Lily. Sit down please.' Minerva smiled at her and put the quill aside.

'Can I do anything for you?' she eyed Lily worriedly.

'No. Or yes. Actually, I wanted to ask you something.' Lily seemed unsure how to go on. 'James Potter invited me to stay with his family for the 70th birthday of his grandmother. I was hoping you could sign the permission paper that I can leave for a whole weekend…' she looked at her mentor expectantly.

Minerva sighed. 'Lily, as much as I would like to help you – you have to ask your parents in this case. I could only help you as your guardian, unfortunately.'

'I wish you were…' Lily trailed off and looked down.

Minerva grabbed her hand and squeezed it.

'They will allow it – why should they not. If they need any kind of reference they can contact me. You like him a lot, do you?' she smiled at her favourite student.

Lily nodded and had a happy smile on her face immediately.

'Yes. I do. He is not too bad you know…'

Minerva laughed at that 'Lily, you don't have to defend Mr Potter. His pranks are outstanding but he is a charming boy for sure. Just be sure that you only do what you are ready to do. And if you need any advice you know where to find me.'

Lily got up and quickly hugged her 'Thank you.'

'Off you go now. He will be missing you already. And I have some work to do!'

Once again the memory jumped forward.

Minerva and Lily were sitting over the chess board. Lily looked a few years older now and was clearly out of school.

She enjoyed watching her mentor in deep concentration. As usual, she made a brilliant move on the chess board and leaned back with a dry smile. 'Your turn.'

Lily pulled a face and pretended to concentrate on her next move. Suddenly, she sat back as well and looked at Minerva.

'James has proposed to me!'

Minerva spilled some of the tea she was just trying to swallow.

'WOW!' was all she could get out between some coughing.

Lily laughed and patted her back.

'Is it that bad?'

Minerva shook her head and needed a moment to recover.

'Not at all, just surprising. Congratulations!' she pulled Lily into a tight hug.

The stayed close for a moment until Lily pulled back.

Eyes full of hope were looking at Minerva now.

'Would you do me the favour and lead me to the altar?'

Minerva stared at her in disbelief. 'Shouldn't that be your father, Lily?'

'Well, if we stick to tradition, it should be. I doubt though that my family would like to be part of this event. Too many freaks around.' She looked down sadly before facing Minerva again. 'Besides, all the last years you have been more of a mother to me than my real one. Please!'

Minerva had a tear running down her cheek now 'I am speechless Lily. I would never have expected this. But, if it makes you happy, I will, of course, give away such a lovely bride – even to James Potter!'

They both laughed and cried at the same time now and Lily pulled her mentor into a warm embrace once more.

The memory again jumped forward.

Harry found himself in a lovely little chapel. The priest was waiting as were the guests. He could see his father in front of the altar, fiddling nervously with the sleeve of his suit. Sirius was standing next to him – grinning madly.

In the front rows were some familiar faces as well but most of the people were foreign to Harry.

The organ started to play the music and the door of the chapel opened.

His mother had a beautiful cream dress and looked simply stunning. Next to her was Minerva McGonagall who also looked breathtaking in her dark green robe. Lily had her hand on Minerva's arm and looked extremely happy. She was nodding to some friends on either side of the aisle and smiled warmly at Minerva who looked as proud as if she had been Lily's real mother.

They finally reached James Potter in front of the altar. His eyes were shining as he looked at his soon to be wife lovingly.

Minerva symbolically handed over the bride and shot James a stern look – followed by a huge grin.

'Take good care of her or you will get to know me.' She whispered still smiling.

'I will' James whispered back before the priest cleared his throat and started the ceremony.

Present:

Harry put his head on Minerva's shoulder and squeezed her hand.

'Thank you so much! For letting me see all these amazing memories. They have brought me so many treasured memories about my parents and I was able to get to know you really well. I could not imagine life without you anymore. Mum would be so happy for us – Mum!' he grinned at her and she ruffled his hair as she loved to.

'I am sure she would be happy for us, Harry. For sure I am the happiest person alive – now that you are sitting next to me safe and in one piece.'

He snuggled deeper into her embrace.

'Can I stay with you and come back for my last year?' he asked silently.

Minerva looked at him incredulously. 'You volunteer for another year at school?'

'Yes. I would like to have a proper diploma. And I could use some more time to think about my future plans. Last year I have been too busy somehow.' He grinned at his mother. 'And I want to be at home – close to you.'

'I would love that very much myself, Harry. Thank you!' she pulled him tight and kissed the top of his head.

'Will Ron and Hermione join you?'

'Yes. We have briefly spoken about it. They would also stay for the holidays to assist with restoring the castle. I guess you could use some help?'

'That would be wonderful!'

Harry realised that her voice sounded a bit strained now and remembered that she still had lots of injuries on the mend.

He pulled her cautiously up from the sofa and pushed her tenderly towards her sleeping room.

'Time for a nap now or Poppy will kill us. I will wake you up for dinner!' he left no room for arguments and tucked his exhausted mother in.

He looked at her when he was about to close the door. She was already asleep and Harry had to smile at the picture.

Then he grabbed the pensieve and the phial and brought them back into her office. He realised the phial had been marked already – by his mother. He put it to the others which were now sorted neatly into a drawer of the desk.

He smiled at the sight and closed them away. It was time to create new memories now – he had gotten to know Minerva McGonagall very well and he intended to still find out more. She was his family after all.

END

Author's note:

Well, it's done! I am a bit sad to leave this story – I enjoyed writing it a lot and this story has been my companion for several weeks now. Strange to finish it. I hope you like it – reviews are very welcome as always. I am happy about your input since I always want to improve.

Thank you for all your support in these past weeks – I would not have been able to do this without you guys! Much appreciated. Hope to return with a new story and read again from you (or message).

Caro