Pottermore Spoiler if you squint, but you can choose to ignore this warning without ruining your life.
16 May 1998
Minerva tapped her foot gently against the floor, slouching a bit in a visitor's chair beside Pomona's hospital bed. Her best friend was recovering—hopefully, at least—from the battle at Hogwarts, nearly two weeks ago now. She turned a page of her book, thinking anxiously of the school. She had left Filius in charge, and he, Harry Potter, and Neville Longbottom were overseeing reconstruction efforts for today.
Pomona, meanwhile, had undergone new treatment yesterday for a truly dreadful curse that had struck her—cast by a former student, no less, and this more than anything else made Minerva clench her teeth in anger—and Minerva had thought it only fitting to be present when Pomona awoke.
Minerva had been waiting for quite a while, simply reading and keeping her mind off of everything else. The end of the war—so many casualties in one night—the destruction of her home—she simply couldn't imagine losing her best friend in the wake of it all, and knew that the only job for her at the moment was looking after the people she cared for.
She glanced at Elphinstone's old pocket watch. She'd been in the hospital nearly half the day. It doesn't matter, she told herself, though thinking of Elphinstone was starting to make her feel a little claustrophobic in the tiny hospital room. Feeling rather hot around the collar, Minerva stood and strode over to the window, leaning against the sill and gazing out over the sunlit, sparkling city…it was too beautiful, it didn't know a thing about what it had just survived…
And again, her mind wandered to the amount of time she had spent in the hospital today.
"No," Minerva told herself firmly. Then, quite suddenly, an absurd mental image came flying through her thoughts. She chuckled to herself. "'I value the friend who for me finds time on his calendar, but I cherish the friend who for me does not consult his calendar,'" she murmured softly, smiling slightly at the memory.
30 June 1995
Minerva stood beside Albus on the steps of Hogwarts, watching the last of the thestral-drawn carriages leave the gates, bearing the students off to Hogsmeade station. When the last carriage had cleared the fence, she and Albus raised their wands, and the gates swung shut with a clang, magically sealing themselves.
Minerva lowered her wand and faced Albus. "Another year," she said, and Albus nodded. "Have you heard from Arabella yet?"
"She's kindly agreed to keep an eye on Harry for us," he answered, as they turned and climbed the steps. "Though one of our first duties for the Order will be establishing a round-the-clock guard for him. Capable she may be, but Arabella cannot protect Harry without help, and I am confident he will need protection."
Minerva sighed, flicking her wand at the castle doors, and they swung shut. "We'll need to find headquarters," she said.
"Sirius Black was good enough to offer his family home," Albus said lightly, and Minerva restrained herself from snorting.
"Orion and Walburga Black's house? Can you imagine what that must be like?" she asked incredulously. Then she paused. "Although I imagine it's incredibly well-protected…"
"My thoughts exactly," Albus said, smiling. "Have you any plans today, Minerva?"
"I've got a lot of things to take care of," Minerva answered. She sighed. "Starting with sending your advertisement for our newest Defense teacher to the Prophet."
"Ah, thank you," Albus said, starting up the stairs. "I'd nearly forgotten."
Minerva smiled rather sadly. She knew exactly what he meant; it seemed odd to try and carry on with normal duties after the events of the past week. "Hopefully we'll have some luck finding someone," she said. "Has everyone else left?"
"Severus is…occupied," Albus said, and Minerva winced. "I believe Filius has gone home, as well as most of the rest of the staff." They had reached the top of the stairs. "I believe we both have very busy evenings ahead of us—but shall we make plans for dinner together? We ought to discuss plans for the summer."
"I think I can find some time for that," Minerva said, smiling. She and Albus had ended every school year with a dinner since she'd started teaching at Hogwarts. It was a comfortable, natural tradition that was somehow all the more calming after this particularly strenuous year—week, Minerva though darkly.
"Excellent," said Albus. "Why don't you come to my office at eight or so?"
"All right," Minerva replied. "I shall see you in a few hours, then."
"Thank you, Minerva," he said, beaming, and Minerva nodded, heading off in the direction of her office.
As she walked, she made a mental checklist of everything she needed to get done. Proofread and send Albus's advertisement—look over the six new articles she'd received for Transfiguration Today—draft three recommendation letters for her N.E.W.T. students—select prefects and the new Quidditch Captain for Albus to approve, her least favorite job of each summer—write to Arabella Figg, asking for regular updates on Potter—Merlin's beard, she thought, leaning on her office door until it shut behind her, she hadn't even started any of it and she was exhausted.
Her back gave a little twinge, and she rubbed it, scowling in great distaste for her old Quidditch injury, which had the most convenient way of irritating her only when it was least welcome. Straightening, she swept over to the table below her windowsill, thinking that perhaps a Ginger Newt or two might incite her to get busy. She munched thoughtfully for a moment, her arm folded around her middle as she gazed over the grounds. This was going to be a busy summer—busy to say the least, she thought morosely.
How could the grounds look so beautiful and inviting when so many dreadful things seemed to loom on the horizon? Minerva's heart clenched. When dreadful things have already begun to happen, she corrected herself, and her mind wandered, unbidden to the Great Hall, where she had still not removed the black banners hanging from the walls.
And from there, her gaze quickly darted out her window, to the greenhouses—surely not, she thought—and then her heart sank. The doors of greenhouse two were standing open. Pomona never left the doors open unless she had a class, or she herself was tending to the plants…without another thought for the pile of work waiting on her desk, Minerva ran from her office, waving her wand and sealing the door with a loud bang behind her.
She hurried down the corridor to the entrance hall balcony, flew down the marble staircase, and pulled the front doors open, hurrying out and nearly sprinting to the greenhouses. Minerva slowed outside greenhouse two's open door and took a breath before stepping inside.
"Pomona?" she called softly, passing a row of potted Mandrakes, which were quivering slightly. "Pomona, are you here?" There was silence. Minerva frowned. "Po—"
"I'm here, Minerva, what is it?" called a wavering voice from the back of the greenhouse. Minerva bit her lip and walked down the aisle between two long gardening tables. At the very back of the greenhouse, seated on a small bench and gazing up at an enormous Hungarian Hydrangea plant, was Pomona Sprout.
Minerva stopped ten feet away, watching Pomona absently handle a pair of pruning shears. She glanced up at Minerva—her eyes were red and puffy—and nodded, giving a falsely cheery little smile.
"The—uhm—I need to trim the leaves back before I go," she said, sounding a little dry. "Otherwise the blossoms will—er—they'll…" She trailed off, for Minerva had come up beside her and laid a hand on her shoulder, heaving a deep sigh. Pomona stood suddenly, shaking off Minerva's hand, and circled the plant thoughtfully. "Well, you know how temperamental these Hydrangeas can be," she said loudly. "These blossoms take forever to—to grow in, and when they do, well, they—" her voice broke, and she shut her eyes, drawing a deep breath. "They just—they need to be looked after, you—can't let them out of—of your sight—"
"Pomona," said Minerva softly, and finally, Pomona met her eyes. She was crying, her shoulders shaking as tears poured down her face. "Oh, Pomona, come—come here," Minerva said, unable to keep the quaver from her own voice, and she opened her arms.
Pomona dropped the pruning shears with a clang and hurried to Minerva, wrapping her arms tightly around her as she began to sob. Minerva returned the embrace tightly, feeling tears sting her eyes. Gently, Minerva lowered herself onto the little gardening bench, bringing Pomona with her, and for a long while, they simply sat as Pomona cried herself out on Minerva's shoulder.
"One of mine," she kept repeating softly, sobbing faintly. "One of mine…"
"You couldn't have done anything," Minerva told her gently, after several minutes. "Pomona, it was out of your control, you couldn't have—"
"I could have said they weren't allowed to enter," Pomona moaned. "I could have said no. I could have paid more attention to Moody—he was acting oddly all year—I could have talked to Severus—I could have told them they weren't allowed to enter!" she said again loudly, hysterically, and Minerva clutched her tighter.
"Pomona, if you'd done that, we still would have lost one—we would have lost someone else, one of Severus's, or Filius's, or…or mine," she said, quickly wiping away a tear. "There was nothing we could have done, not any of us," she insisted. "It's horrible—the worst thing imaginable, but it would have happened no matter what," said Minerva. "It's unfair, it's wrong, it's awful, but it's not your fault. Pomona," she said, pulling away from Pomona and holding her firmly at arm's distance. "Pomona, listen to me. It is not your fault."
Pomona's lip trembled, and more tears spilled from her eyes. "I had t-to l-l-look Am-m-mos and—and D-Diana in the f-face and t-t-tell—" and with a cry of anguish she threw herself in Minerva's arms once again. "One of mine!" she screamed into Minerva's shoulder, clinging to her, and Minerva massaged her back in soothing circles.
"Shh-shh-shh," she said softly, swallowing a huge lump in her throat. "All right, Pomona, all right…shh, shh, shh…"
It took ages for Pomona to calm down enough to sit up, still shaking with dry sobs. Minerva produced a handkerchief from her pocket, which Pomona took gratefully to dab at her eyes. Minerva moved to sit closer to her on the bench, laying a hand on her back.
"I don't know that I'll ever forgive myself," Pomona said in a dull, low voice as she gazed at the floor.
"Pomona," Minerva said softly. "There's nothing to forgive—"
"Don't argue with me about it, Minerva, not right now," Pomona told her, closing her eyes as if she were in pain.
Minerva's hand paused only momentarily in its gentle rubbing of Pomona's back before she nodded. "All right," Minerva murmured.
There was another long stretch of silence; the sun was getting very low in the sky. Pomona kept her eyes shut, breathing deeply with her hands folded tightly in her lap. At long last, she lifted her head and opened her puffy eyes.
"Are your things packed?" Minerva asked softly. "You're still going to the District, aren't you?"
Pomona nodded, not meeting her eyes. "But I'm not packed," she said hoarsely. "I wanted to leave quickly. Didn't work out. Always was bad at planning," she joked half-heartedly, giving a watery little hiccup.
And in the back of Minerva's mind, she recalled making plans of her own…well, short of a real emergency, there was always time tomorrow, she told herself firmly. "Do you want to stay here for a little while, then?"
Pomona shook her head. "You've got work to do with the Order," she said. "I'll be in the way."
"No, Pomona," Minerva said forcefully. "It doesn't matter right now. Right now…you are going to have dinner, and then you're going to bed." And gently, she put her arm around Pomona's waist, lifting her up from the bench. "We've all been through enough these last few weeks without worrying about what's yet to come."
Pomona nodded slightly, allowing Minerva to steer her from the greenhouse. Minerva pointed her wand at the doors so that they shut behind them. She led Pomona inside the castle, still holding securely to her shoulders.
"Why, Minerva, Pomona, is everything all right?"
Pomona gave a little hiccup. Albus was standing at the top of the stairs, looking concerned.
"Everything's fine, headmaster," Pomona said squeakily, but Minerva gave Albus a telling look. He smiled kindly as they ascended the staircase.
"I am glad to hear that, Pomona," he said warmly, patting her shoulder. "Minerva, I only wished to tell you that I'm afraid I must cancel our dinner appointment."
"Oh," Minerva said in surprise, before she noticed Albus's eyes twinkling at her knowingly. "Oh, yes, Albus, we can have dinner anytime."
"Excellent!" Albus said. "'I value the friend who for me finds time on his calendar, but I cherish the friend who for me does not consult his calendar.' Wouldn't you both agree?" he asked.
Pomona nodded, looking bemused, and Minerva sighed, smiling a bit. How did he always know exactly what to say?
Albus patted Pomona's shoulder again. "Have a restful evening, Pomona," he said, meeting her eyes seriously, and even Minerva felt the warm light emanating from Albus's gaze. "Minerva, I shall see you later."
"Of course," Minerva murmured softly, and Albus nodded, turning smartly on his heel and striding away in the direction of his office.
Both Minerva and Pomona were silent for several moments.
"How does he do that?" Pomona asked quietly. "I haven't figured out how to do that for my students in thirty years of teaching, and he takes thirty seconds—"
"I know," Minerva told her, squeezing her shoulders tightly. "Believe me, I know. Come on, dear, time for me to—er—not consult my calendar, wasn't it?" she asked.
And for the first time in a week, Pomona laughed.
16 May 1998
Pomona stirred slightly, and Minerva moved back to the bedside, standing over her. After a moment, however, Pomona did not wake. In fact, she looked very drawn and ill, and the sight broke Minerva's heart. Gently, she reached out and patted Pomona's hand. As she did so, she felt her fingers brush against the cool metal of the pocket watch.
"It doesn't matter," Minerva told herself, now rather annoyed by her preoccupation. "Don't consult your calendar."
"Albus was mad as a hatter, dear, we both know that," Pomona murmured, and Minerva started. "Though I didn't expect it to hit you quite so soon…headmistress for only two weeks…" she mumbled.
"How are you feeling?" Minerva asked, as Pomona turned her head to smile dazedly at her.
"I think I'll be taming dragons by Thursday," Pomona told her, taking a deep breath and squeezing her eyes shut momentarily. "Have you been here long?"
"That doesn't matter," Minerva said, glancing over her shoulder to be sure her book was out of sight.
Pomona gave a weak chuckle and winced; Minerva rubbed her arm gently. "Of course it does, Minerva," she said sagely. "Because I appreciate it."
"I know you can't stand the hospital, Minerva. I'm sorry," Pomona told her.
"Leave that for me to worry about, Pomona, really," said Minerva, shaking her head. Pomona nodded slowly, her eyes closing, and Minerva thought that she might have dropped off again. She was just sitting back down when Pomona drew a breath.
"Albus was mad as a hatter," she said again.
"I think he'd agree with you on that point," Minerva chuckled gently, and Pomona smiled.
"But he was always right," she said.
"He'd certainly agree with that," said Minerva, and Pomona actually laughed. Then she winced, pressing her hand to her middle. "Oh, Pomona, I'm sorry," Minerva said immediately, standing again and hovering over her anxiously. "Really—oh, goodness—"
Weakly, Pomona waved away her concerns. "M'fine," she said quietly. "Just fine…" She took several deep breaths with her eyes closed, as Minerva stood over her, biting her lip. After a few moments, Pomona opened her eyes and spoke again.
"As I was saying," she said, and she smiled at Minerva. "Oh, sit down, Minerva—as if you're not tall enough already," she smiled. Minerva sat, shaking her head. Pomona's sense of humor was completely intact, to the surprise of no one.
"I was saying that Albus had a knack for always being right, and he's still right. Especially about that calendar nonsense," she continued, waving her hand vaguely.
"Oh, Pomona," Minerva said, shaking her head. "It's not—"
"No, Minerva, it's important to me," Pomona told her earnestly, lifting her head slightly. "If there's one thing we've all had to learn the hard way these last few years, it's—ow—nnh—it's that…that friends like we've had are few and far between, and if—" she sighed, seemingly annoyed that she couldn't quite keep her breath. "If someone cares about us enough to spend an entire day making sure we're all right, we have to appreciate that for what it is." Pomona drew another breath and met Minerva's eyes, looking a bit tearful. "So thank you. I mean that."
Minerva blinked rapidly several times and glanced down, collecting herself. She reached out and touched Pomona's arm, smiling gently. "You're welcome, of course. I mean that."
Pomona nodded and smiled, settling back on her pillows. "So, tell me," she said. "How's the castle? Are my greenhouses all right?"
So THIS is my submission for the Best Friends Competition, by a-trip-to-honeydukes! One of two...the other is a surprise set of best friends, and I'm super excited to post that one...when I finally write it...well, anyway! Hope you like, I really like these two and their friendship. It's the kind of friendship I want to have with someone totally awesome when I'm all growed up (that and a really AWESOME marriage). How fantastic would that be? Love you guys!