They all turned to Minerva for guidance. Lord Voldemort had fallen and left many lifeless souls and a whole chaos. It felt quite hard finding any joy in his downfall when the toll had been so high. Many innocent, aspiring magicians had been brave enough to stay and fight for what they thought was right and had lost their lives against stronger and more rivals. This battle had not been fought fair, but who had really expected it to be with Tom Riddle in the mix? Minerva hadn't. When Harry revealed himself to her, she had immediately known how it would all end: a chaos… even though she couldn't have anticipated who would in fact win, considering both sides were or at least had been equal in might, even though not in number, and equally determined to cause loss upon the other side. The Death Eaters had been fewer, but had had better and more means than for instance the younger pupils that had stayed to fight in the war that Voldemort and his selfishness had unleashed.
Dumbledore had been gone for over a year, and since then the whole British Wizarding world had fallen without guide… without hope, maybe. Then Severus Snape had come in between. Minerva had not really had much of a chance to gain the confidence of anyone, even though she knew that she must have at least gained it from people like the Weasleys and the other teachers already. With Snape gone as well, the whole British Wizarding world had seemed to turn to her at once and had counted on her to know what to do; for her to tell anyone else what needed to happen and in what order and how. She didn't know any better than them, but had told the remaining Order members to maybe begin with escorting home the pupils that had remained fighting and had survived and were well enough. They needed their families to know they were all right and needed their support right now.
Minerva didn't know yet how she was going to inform the families of the non-survivors. Among the non-survivors, thirty-one were pupils. About as many families needed to be informed. Some of the fallen had been brothers and sisters of one another. She couldn't imagine what it must be like hearing they had not survived… being a mother herself and sitting there knowing or not knowing what had happened and waiting for news and for your child to come home. It needed to happen soon. These families needed to know.
She looked up to see the ceiling burst in numerous spots. The charm which had had it look like the sky had been broken, and she began vaguely casting restoration charms at it, considering the stormy weather she could see nearing. Having lived in Scotland all your life did that to you; it enabled you to anticipate its weather very easily. She needed to shield the fallen and the mourning survivors from further harm.
"Minerva, what are you doing?" Filius asked.
"I'm hoping to repair the ceiling at least and the rest of the Great Hall. There's stormy weather coming soon, and otherwise we'll be straight into it. I need to do this…" she replied. "I need to shield both the fallen and the living from more harm if I can. They've already suffered enough. This is the least I can do. I already couldn't stop them from getting killed…"
Filius looked at her in sadness and patted her hip – the highest he could possibly reach – before leaving knowing he could not say or do anything for her right now.
Hermione vaguely noticed Minerva shaking her head at the tiny wizard and continue casting powerful charms upward. One could see determination in the teal green eyes and the way her jaw was set. A large cut still grazed her cheek, and lacerations and cuts seems to cover her whole body. The side and seams of her robes seemed to be burned and if she moved, one could see her bare thigh, un-adorned with a seemingly very painful and deep cut. Everyone knew better than to suggest her asking Poppy for help. She'd rather die than ask for help, no matter how much needed it might be. She'd tell everyone she was fine again and continue her merry way anyway. No tear stains were visible on her cheeks.
She needed to be helped, though. Hermione intuitively knew she'd rather accept it from someone older and not an ex pupil of hers – or at least not a recent one – so she quietly reached up to lie her hand down upon Molly's shoulder, and she immediately regretted having done so. She was still grieving, too. She had lost a son.
Molly eyed her with teary hazel eyes and then followed Hermione's gaze, resting on Minerva. She was holding onto one of the turned over House tables while continuing to look up and try restore and ward the ceiling again. Molly looked at the girl, who was as good as her daughter and gave her a meaningful look. She slowly got up from her knees and walked over to Minerva's side. She quietly reached over and laid her hand on Minerva's wand arm, lowering it. Minerva surprisingly allowed her to do so and looked aside to find the matriarch of the Weasleys gazing at her in concern: the mother-figure of all time. "Please… let it be for now, Minerva."
Minerva eyed Molly with weary eyes and let the younger woman pull her in an embrace. "I have to do this, Molly. I really need to… I already failed to shield the pupils here no matter how hard I tried. This is the least I can do…" Molly quietly shook her head, holding Minerva a little tighter.
Harry had come to her after the battle… had told her that what Dumbledore had uncovered about Tom Riddle's seven Horcruxes… hence why he had needed the tiara… He had told her that Dumbledore had not wanted her to know because he had thought she was the best chance the pupils had like he had been the very best chance the whole Wizarding world had to end this.
"Albus already didn't confide in me enough to let me know about all this. He didn't believe that I could… Albus left me to defend the school; he said I was the one who held the very best chances of the pupils' survival, but I have failed. I have failed him. So many have fallen… I have to inform a mass of families of their children's deaths. I have failed you. Fred…"
Molly's head shook once again as she and Minerva parted and Molly quietly took the older woman's hand, squeezing it; it was icy cold and shaky. She was incredibly pale as well, Molly could see even under the layer of dust and whatnot upon her face. "Minerva, don't be too hard on yourself. You could have done nothing more. No one will blame you for this. You tried so hard."
Minerva sobbed. "Then why does it feel like I didn't do enough? Albus would have been able to do more."
"You're too hard on yourself," Molly whispered, holding her tight again. "You're not him, and I doubt even he would have been able to end this without anyone of our side falling. This was a sacrifice needed to end the war for once and for all. You couldn't have done anything more, Minerva. You have fought with all you had. You have defended Hogwarts with your life. I'm sure Albus would be very proud of you. You couldn't have beat them all alone." Minerva often tried to act as if she were emotionless and didn't need anyone, but Molly knew better. Everyone needed someone sometimes. Minerva sobbed in Molly's shoulder quietly for a little while. Molly, no matter the age difference between them, adapted to her usual mother role and toyed with some loose strands of graying hair, her other hand moving over the elder witch's back.
Instead of subsiding, the elder woman's sobs seemed to come faster, and Molly slowly pulled back so that she could eye the Headmistress better. She quietly pulled away the hand that laid on the elder woman's side when she seemingly felt something wet against it and saw the blood on it. Her other hand came up to touch Minerva's forehead, which felt clammy and sweaty. As she looked at the elder woman closer, she could actually see beads of cold sweat forming on her forehead fast. Her breathing was becoming faster, and it seemed like she was struggling for any intake of air. Minerva's eyes were tightly closed. "Poppy!" Molly screamed, her head whipping to each side as she tried to locate the nurse. She couldn't see her anywhere. "Poppy!"
The small tawny owl flew from their window already before Molly could offer it a piece of bacon or anything else. It had barely allowed her to untie the Evening Prophet from its paw. It seemed very eager to return home. Molly sat down on her chair at the kitchen table again, quietly unrolling the paper and letting her eyes wander over the first page. The latest editions since the Battle had been full with information about the upcoming funerals most of all. Even journalists like Rita Skeeter had been respectful enough not to make a whole fuss about the Battle itself – thus far. The toll had been high – even so high to make greedy journalists like Rita swallow. Molly didn't doubt that it would come sooner or later, but for now she thought she should just enjoy the silence before the uproar. It had been a long two days.
Molly sighed. "Arthur, Colin Creevey's funeral is together with Fred's on Thursday." She looked up at her husband with weary eyes. The Battle had been won, but the scars remained. She hadn't actually had any sleep since she had heard that Fred had lost life in the Battle. She could consider herself lucky to still have her husband and her other six children alive, but still, she had once carried Fred in her womb as well, and that for about eight months. The twins had been born early in the middle of the night. She still remembered well enough. The thought made the edges of her eyes moist, and she blinked a few times rapidly to keep herself from bursting into tears once more. She had cried enough.
Arthur quietly set his mug down on the side of the table and moved to Molly's side, hands coming down on her shoulders. He read along leaning over her. "We'll send them a card instead then," he whispered, kissing the top of her head. She nodded and closed her eyes leaning her heavy head against her husband's upper body for a little while, before letting them flicker open again.
"I really should go look at Minerva again," Molly said and sighed, pushing back her chair and getting up. Both their eyes connected and their gazes spoke volumes. They didn't need the words anymore after twenty-five years of having been together.
"She's been asleep for a very long time now, and I don't like it one bit."
Molly sighed, leaning into her husband's warmth and allowing him to cradle her against him for a moment. At least, they still had each other. They separated. "Me neither," Molly whispered, giving her husband one more worried look, before walking over to the stairs and ascending them to the second floor, where Bill's old room was located. Minerva McGonagall had taken it up since she had been taken to the Burrow, once Poppy had gotten her from immediate danger after the hypovolemic shock. Harry as usual shared a room with Ron, while Hermione shared with Ginny.
Quietly pulling down the old door handle and creaking the door further open, Molly slowly made her way into the bedroom and over to the curtains. Every morning Molly Weasley would come open them, and every evening she would come to close them again. An easy flick of her wand made the light in the middle of the ceiling spring to life, and Molly quietly moved to the side of the bed, sitting down on the edge. Minerva hadn't moved an inch since she'd been there. Poppy had come by at noon the day before, and the same day again as well to treat her injuries. If Minerva wasn't awake by tomorrow, she would have to be taken to St. Mungo's for the chance Minerva woke up would have become exceptionally small after more than forty-eight hours.
Molly sighed covering Minerva's hand with hers, momentarily squeezing it even though she knew that the Headmistress couldn't feel it. She didn't have much hope left. She sighed and moved to get up when she suddenly felt something move lightly underneath her hand. She cast her gaze back to Minerva's face, noticing her eyelids fluttering seemingly with effort to get open. "Minerva?" She whispered. "Minerva, could you open your eyes for me?"
Molly tenderly turned the elder woman's hand in hers and held it, as she watched Minerva closely. Her eyelids continued to flutter, and then suddenly, her teal green eyes slowly opened, looking up at the ceiling in confusion until the image focused, and she quietly turned her head to look at the red haired woman whose hand she held tightly. She opened her mouth to say something, but her throat felt particularly dry and as soon as she opened her mouth she could do nothing else but cough. Her other hand jerked to her still painful ribs as she did so. "Shh..." Molly whispered, lying her wand down on the night table.
She leaned over the Headmistress's body carefully coaxing the elder woman's arm around her shoulders and shoving her own underneath the elder woman's upper body, heaving her up in a sitting position under a loud wince. "I'm sorry!" As the elder woman leaned her heavy head against Molly's shoulder, the coughing slowly subsided, and she breathed heavily against her. Still holding the headmistress against her securely with one hand, Molly awkwardly adjusted the pillows behind her back with the other, before letting the Transfiguration Mistress fall back against them and letting go. She cast a look of deep concern upon the elder woman as she once again opened her mouth to say something but hopelessly fell in a fit of coughs. Molly easily reached for her wand on the night table and waved it to make a glass of water appear, which she caught with her other hand, before handing it to Minerva, who gratefully accepted the kind gesture. Molly kept one hand on the glass and helped Minerva to raise her head a little as well. She was still weak after having been asleep for about forty-eight hours. She must have been truly exhausted. Molly had no trouble believing it considering how fiercely she had fought and that at her age. "Please, don't gulp it all down at once," Molly whispered, and in response Minerva slowly lowered the glass again. "No worries," Molly whispered kindly, taking the glass and setting it down on the bedside table.
Wanting to save the elder woman's voice, she decided to ask a yes or no question. "Are you hurting somewhere?" She asked.
Minerva nodded weakly, the hand that laid on her ribs slightly tightening. Molly hadn't missed the slight motion. She nodded, letting her eyes wander over the rest of Minerva's body. When vivid brown found teal green again, Molly immediately found the unspoken questions lingering in the elder woman's eyes. She sighed.
"You've gone into a shock due to having lost so much blood. Poppy just managed to get you back. We've moved you to the Burrow. There's always someone here. We thought that maybe this would be better than St. Mungo's until there was no other option anymore with the bunch of others in need of a hospital. You've been asleep for two days. I'm so glad to see you awake," Molly summarized, "Filius has made sure to inform everyone who needed be informed. There haven't been any major crises. He's hoping to rebuild the castle after all the funerals are through."
Minerva nodded weakly, eyes rapidly filling with tears. She should have been there. Everyone expected her to be. Albus had expected her to be. A sob unwillingly broke the silence between the two women, and Molly's eyes grew worried seeing her former Transfiguration Professor like that. She easily leaned in again, pulling Minerva against her once more and letting her sob on her shoulder. Sobs gradually gave way to a sea of tears. She was so exhausted – too exhausted to keep her many defences up.
"Shh, I'm right here," Molly whispered, and she didn't really know whether it could be considered a reassurance to the elder woman who had once been her Transfiguration Professor, but she sincerely hoped that it would be. When the tears had subsided and Molly wanted to pull away, she found the elder lady only holding her tighter.
A shiver ran over her, and Molly only fully realized again then how cold it could get at night. Molly quietly reached for her wand again insofar as possible without letting go of Minerva and Transfigured her attires in an orange cotton night robe. "Minerva, I'm sorry. I'm not going, but I need to..." She didn't need to finish for Minerva to loosen her grip slightly – even though still not letting go of her as if doing that would cause her to fall in an abyss. She slowly shifted so that she could join Minerva under the covers, for it was exceptionally cold even though the time of the year; too cold just to remain sitting there all night without covers. Once Molly was settled underneath as well, she pulled Minerva halfway atop of her and held her close with one hand, as she awkwardly tried to readjust the pillows beneath them with the other one. Once Molly was satisfied, she laid back with a shaky Minerva cradled in her arms. She motherly tugged the covers a little higher and tucked her better in then.
One wouldn't really expect Minerva, the always stern and strong Transfiguration Professor in such delicate position and certainly not allowing the comfort of another human being. Molly would never have guessed it as a pupil either and maybe never before that point, but she was no longer the person she had then been as a pupil. She was a mother to seven – no, six... – children. Molly wasn't there as a former pupil, but as a companion and a woman and somehow as a mother as well, even though the roles could have been exchanged. With the age difference of twenty-four years, Minerva could have easily been her mother.
She would have made a great one, whether she or anyone else would actually believe it or not. She herself was usually portrayed as the mother figure of all times, and she secretly thought of herself – mainly hoped – as a good mother, but she most certainly hadn't been all her life as there had even been a time she told Arthur she never wanted children, and she wasn't 100% of the time either; because especially with the twins... Oh, had she known then how things would turn, she never would have been so... No, she couldn't allow herself to dwell upon it right now. Minerva was of more importance now, and she wouldn't really be much of a comfort in tears herself because of her very own regrets and worries and pain.
Thoughtfully muttering a wandless spell that would leave Bill's old room bathing in darkness once again, Molly held the other woman closer still, one hand tenderly stroking through the soft greying hair and the other drawing soothing circles on the woman's lower back – always careful not to harm her more – as the older woman hid in Molly's shoulder until after two hours she had finally cried herself to sleep again to Molly's calming motherly humming and tender caresses. Even in her sleep Minerva didn't let go of the younger red haired woman. Molly wouldn't have left even if the elder woman hadn't held onto her so hard, though.
A soft creaking made Molly Weasley gaze up at the door. The bit of light that spilled in from the hallways into the room showed her the contours of her husband, whose eyes gazed over the scene before him. Arthur took in how fiercely Minerva seemed to hold onto his wife and how she lay half beside half atop of her. Molly gave her husband a light smile. She still had a long way to go, but at least Minerva had woken – it sure was one step in the right direction, and they would help her to take the next and the next... Arthur Weasley momentarily smiled back at his wife, closing the door to Bill's old room as quietly as possible and returning to his bedroom alone.