No money, no gain, no nothing but pleasure.
For Maggie Smith, whom I love.
She had never allowed her students to see her with her hair completely down. Somehow, however, now it didn't seem too important to wrestle those strands falling loosely down her back back into the bun. It didn't matter either that her robes were torn and that, if one were to look carefully, a hint of knee was visible through one of the tears in the black fabric.
She could see the entire Great Hall from where she was sitting on one of the steps, letting her eyes sweep over the people sitting, standing, crouching, lying there. Families reunited again, weeping together or laughing together, holding onto one another. The Malfoys, even them huddled together in one of the corners. The Weasleys, in another, all of them but one, Molly weeping and Arthur doing his best to console his inconsolable sons and daughter and wife, while barely holding it together himself. Lavender Brown sitting arm in arm with the Patil twins and, Millicent Bulstrode, all of the consoling Denis Creevey. Luna Lovegood sitting with Hannah Abbott, with Neville Longbottom and his grandmother Augusta who wore a strange and most unbecoming smile on her face. All of them laughing and crying and generally oozing emotions. Kingsley Shacklebolt patting Mr Finnigan and Mr Thomas on the shoulders. Horace Slughorn with a dazed look on his face staring up at the ceiling. Poppy Pomfrey bustling around, her visage one of fierce determination, being followed by Pomona Sprout and Filius Flitwick who, once in a while, shot a glance up at Minerva.
She knew she should be bustling down there with them, beginning with – she didn't know what. Getting the remaining statues back into their places, or trying to figure out what damage exactly had been done to her castle. What had happened to Severus after all. Beginning to sort out...she didn't know what exactly. She had functioned. She had done what had to be done but she felt...she wasn't sure what she felt in that moment. She let her eyes sweep over the Great Hall again. Her Great Hall now. She would have to get a move on. She was the one with all the responsibility now. Her castle, her school. All of her students and some of them lying lifelessly down there somewhere. She would have to notify parents, guardians, she would have to...
Minerva let a hand run through the fallen tresses of hair slowly. She had never allowed her students to see her with her hair down like that, and now it was even dirty. Her fingers touched a sore spot on her temple and she merely shrugged to herself when she glanced at her blood-stained fingertips upon pulling back. It didn't matter. Nothing, at this moment, truly mattered.
A small smile crept on her lips when she saw Hermione Granger, hand in hand, with Ronald Weasley walk into the Hall. Everyone had seen this coming so much sooner than those two had but she was happy for them. Harry Potter trailing a bit behind them. All three wore a dazed look on their face and she couldn't blame them.
They had won. Had paid with so many lives. Victory, as always, was bitter sweet.
Somewhere down there, was Remus Lupin and his wife. Somewhere down there was Fred Weasley. Somewhere down there was Colin Creevey.
She bit her lip hard and let her face fall into her hands for the briefest of moment, allowed herself to close her eyes for a moment.
First of all, she would give them all time to grieve. She would give them room, she would give them all she could give to help. The castle would have to be repaired but lives, families, they were more important now.
Minerva looked up again, pushing a strand of hair that had fallen into her face back impatiently. She should get a move on, even if she felt tired and that strange hex that someone had hit her calf with still could be felt. She drew a deep breath, the stench of sweaty bodies invading her nose.
She had survived. This old body had survived when so many young ones with their lives before them hadn't. And she was the one who was supposed to be responsible for them now. Her eyes fell on Arthur Weasley, then on Kingsley Shacklebolt. They needed a strong leader now and if she was to be Headmistress, she would need a Minister on her side who did not constantly feel the need for either reassurance or advice. She had the duty to rebuild the school and try to rebuild as many lives as she could.
Her chest hurt and the inside of her lip bled. They had all paid dearly for this victory and yet, Millicent Bulstrode had just made Denis Creevey laugh.
Life went on. So many dead but life, inevitably, went on.
She felt bone-tired but she had to get a move on. The statues had to be returned to their place, the armours told to go back, the damage on the outside parameters checked, wards checked, wards reset, and eventually, Hogwarts would have to be given her life back.
Filius looked up at her again and she even managed a small smile in return as he hurried behind Poppy, stumbling, almost, over Cho Chang's legs. Life went on.
A rustling sound next to her made her look up and had her draw her wand immediately, pointing at the boyish chest of – Harry Potter. The boy smiled at her and quietly, as she lowered her wand, sat next to her on the cold steps. And truly, Ronald had, together with Hermione by his side, joined his family, both of them hugging everyone, with Molly smiling sadly at them.
She heard the boy next to her sigh softly and slowly turned her head to look at him. His eyes met hers and he looked rather solemn for a moment before he smiled and inched a little closer, sitting quietly.
She wanted to say something, wanted to thank him, or berate him, or...anything but she couldn't say a word. She was sure he had heard her scream and for that, she almost blushed. Students were not accustomed to seeing her being emotional. Or with her hair down.
Sensing that he was looking at her again, she turned as well.
"Well?" she said, her voice croaky and hoarse from all the rubble.
He smiled lopsidedly and nodded his head towards the Great Hall in general. "I'll help."
She nodded sternly and endless years of being the prim and proper teacher made her stick a strand of hair back into her bun before she stood up, cleared her throat and looked at Harry Potter still sitting there.
"We don't have any time to waste."
He shook his head, chuckled, got up and grabbed her in a fierce hug, crushing her ribs and squeezing the air out of her lungs.