A/N: This story picks up after 'Should Have' and will encompass snippets of events in between canon moments from The Deathly Hallows.
Filius warded the room before turning worried eyes upon his long time friend and colleague. "Here," he reached into his robes, "Poppy asked that I give you these." He handed her two more bottles, which she gingerly took with her left hand.
"Thank you." She breathed out, and was saved from banishing the pain potion's lid as Filius charmed it away.
"She relayed that you and Alecto happened upon the other again."
Minerva set the first bottle down, having already ingested it. "Teacher's lounge this morning."
"Minerva…" He waved his hand, and was floating next to her, taking the second bottle. "If Amycus had been there too, at best I'd be visiting you in St. Mungos."
"She was." Minerva replied as she capitulated and turned around. "Right shoulder area, it's glamoured."
"While it marvelous you have become so adept at them that even I can't see them," He waved his wand and inwardly recoiled at the dried blood blanketing her entire right side. "Ohhh, Minerva…" He split her robes along her back, "you are going to need to see Poppy. The wound…"
"Has to make it till this evening when she can stop by on her way to her chambers, or it'll be logged in the infirmaries notes."
"Both Alecto and Amycus…"
"Neither one realizes they did catch me," She couldn't stop from flinching as he began peeling the material away from the wound. "Tsst…"
"And you taught your last two classes like this?"
"Thankfully, Severus was busy with why the Carrows we not in their own classes to check upon my own."
"I can charm the skin to remain closed, but the muscle…" He gingerly pushed upon the swollen red flesh, "Poppy may send you to Helena dear. What curse did this?"
"It worked." He muttered as he charmed the muscle to remain fixed. "The muscle is fully separated from the bone." He ignored the soft hissing in pain, focusing on what was needed to triage the wound. "At least tell me that you left the Carrows with an equally if not more so unpleasant injury."
"Had Amycus not intervened, Alecto would have become a new piece of furniture for the lounge." Minerva's inflection altering as he continued working on her shoulder.
"Had you started the transfiguration?" Filius was almost afraid to ask, knowing that she'd have to account for a lot if that were the case.
"No, but only by just." She flinched, gasping. "Easy Filius…" Her tone breaking, "I have to finish my classes this afternoon."
"I need to finish immobilizing the joint."
"I've got to be able to use my arm to cast spells."
"You could permanently damage the area if I don't complete the series of spells."
"Charm it is as best you can, and then wrap it."
"You cannot continue like this." He muttered, "Or I'll be attending your funeral too and if you aren't here, the others will be hard pressed to remain at their posts."
"Rest easy my friend," She closed her eyes, trying to slow her heartbeat. "The year has only just started."
"Don't remind me." He spun his wand and narrowed his eyes to verify his wand work, "However, it doesn't negate the harrowing truth regarding how this year is shaping up to be, and how the staff feel." He lowered his charm and floated around to her face, "Do you want to shower first?"
"In a moment." She replied, blinking to meet his golden gaze. "I fear at times I will be far worse than this morning, my friend. As I have need to leave the grounds at times for personal business, and this mornings encounter was a direct result. Alecto must have suspected I was not within my rooms, and let's just assume that I was unwilling to confirm that I was not upon Hogwarts grounds, rather out for an early stroll along the lake."
"It is better that you know nothing of it, Filius. Deniability in your case, and the rest of the teachers is essential. However, I need you, all of you to remain at Hogwarts and keep it as safe as possible this year, even if I fall."
Slowly, reluctantly, he nodded. "I won't ask. But if you need anything, do not hesitate." A twinkle sparked in his eyes, "Perhaps, a nightly game of chess…" At seeing her questioning look, he continued on. "A way to avoid questions as it is widely known how avid of a player you are, and if you require medical assistance or something else – an alibi perchance…"
"I doubt either of us will have time for a nightly one, however, semi-weekly would be assistive."
"And, have you heard of any news regarding your missing cubs?"
Less than a day after the students had returned, just over a month ago, when Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley, and Hermione Granger hadn't arrived; the staff had designated the three missing Gryffindors as her missing cubs. And, while she wished she did know how they were faring, she didn't. And more importantly, she couldn't. No matter how much she wanted to know. Wanted to know that they were alright, that they were safe, that they were still beyond the Death Eaters grasp for just a little longer. That she was safe. "No. I happened upon Molly this past Saturday, and she is worried sick; she hasn't heard from them since the wedding either."
Filius sighed, "No news in this instance is perhaps better news."
She couldn't believe otherwise, and patted his arm before forcing herself to stand, she did have to prepare for this afternoon and time was working against them both. "I'll be back momentarily."
Hermione jerked awake, saturated in sweaty clothes and sheets as the final tendrils of the nightmare fluttered away. She had been in the Billings home, but instead of Minerva's gentle face and caressing touches; Bellatrix had wanted her. Had forced Hermione to pleasure her.
She took a deep, calming breath as she focused on her surroundings of her new 'home' at Sirius' family's home. She couldn't hear either of the boys, but that wasn't unusual as it was still early – the first vestiges of light brightening the horizon.
She couldn't hear anything of substance to take the nightmare away, and she once again found herself doing what she shouldn't, but couldn't stop. She pictured her face or rather tried.
It had been harder and harder as the days slipped by to conjure the woman's face and not the Deputy Headmistress. She had spent a lot of time cataloguing the vast differences between the woman whom she had met, and the Professor who she knew. And how in the world the same person could be so incredibly different and yet similar simultaneously.
They were both deeply caring, but while one kept a wall as tall as the Headmaster's parapet with her emotions behind it; the other…had displayed her emotions openly.
Her fingers innately drew to her lips, skimming across the surface and for a moment, she imagined it to be Minerva's…before she was blinking back the tears and the worry. She knew in her heart that the woman was in as perilous danger as she and the boys; school had started last month, and the only thing that she had learned was that 'Muggle Studies' had been replaced with 'Pure Blood History'; and who the professors were teaching the curricula. It had been in the Prophet four weeks ago, along with a picture of the staff.
Innately, her eyes darted to the far too brief article, and subsequent picture – or more precisely where the singular face within the picture was as her hand pulled her wand out.
"Lumos." She whispered, light springing forth.
Her hair was crafted up from her face, hair obscured by her emerald tipped hat, a Gaelic broach pinned at the hollow of her throat, matching emerald robes, and face…set in stone. The face of the Deputy Headmistress, Master in Transfiguration, the backbone of Hogwarts and undoubtedly the Order at this point, the epitome of what it meant to be Britain's premiere witch…but it was her eyes that beckoned Hermione's gaze. The momentary flicker of light that sparkled in the depths of the emerald eyes before resetting.
Emerald eyes that weren't here and couldn't be here, despite her wanting them to be. However, she couldn't be here, with them; nor could Hermione be with her. It wasn't meant to be. She had to learn to let the woman go, to move on. It had after all been a month.
"Nox." She muttered as she rolled over, trying to banish the emerald eyes that still swam in her vision despite the almost black room – but like most things regarding her, she couldn't.