"I would think of the blown lilac, and the Happy Valley. These things were permanent, they could not be dissolved. They were memories that cannot hurt. All this I resolved in my dream…We would not talk of Manderley, I would not tell my dream. For Manderley was ours no longer. Manderley was no more."

-Daphne DuMaurier, Rebecca



The next morning before classes started, Albus walked with me down to Hogsmeade. I was upright in a wheelchair; he pushed me, uncharacteristically silent. When the terrain grew rough, he quietly cast a levitation charm, and I was simply floated the rest of the way to the flat.

The flat.

Albus knocked on the door, and I half expected Theron to open it – but not my Theron; the Theron under the hood…

Instead, a woman who bore a striking resemblance to Madam Pomfrey stood in the threshold, looking down at me. "Hello, Albus."

Albus said, "A pleasure, Polly." He rested a hand on my shoulder. "Minerva, this is Polly Pomfrey – Poppy's sister. She'll be staying with you during the day, and I'll be by in the afternoons and evenings." I looked up at him, and he squeezed my shoulder gently. "I've got to get up to classes – you'll be fine." And with a smile at us both, he left.

Polly Pomfrey said briskly, "Well, I suppose we'd better get you inside." But there was something extra to that briskness – something that told me that she knew that re-entering the flat would not be easy for me.

Businesslike, she wheeled me into the guest bedroom; the furnishings in there had been rearranged – on Albus's order, no doubt. The chair that had previously sat in the corner was now by the bed, and the bed was positioned by the window so the occupant could look out on the street. A bookshelf that had not been there previously was by the door, heavily stacked with Muggle literature.

I told Polly that I was tired, and I wished to take a nap. She settled me into bed, and settled herself in the chair with a book. She was efficient, and anything but effusive. She did not press me about what had happened, and I was grateful for that. As I had not slept very much the previous night, I made up for lost time during that day.

A door slamming woke me up. I glanced at the clock; the hands pointed to six, night, and Albus, respectively. I heard voices in the front room, and then another door slammed, and then he came in my room. He looked calm – again. "How was your day?"

"Fine," I said. "How did the classes go?"

"Smoothly. I told them that you had requested a leave of absence, and that you would be back soon."

"You didn't give them a fixed date?"

"No, I did not." And there was that hint of a tone in his voice that forbade further questioning. I fell silent.

After a moment, he said, "Are you hungry?"

"Slightly."

He got up and went to the kitchen. I heard various clangings of pots and pans, and in a few minutes, he came back in with pork chops and a salad. "They should be remotely palatable," he said. I took a bite; they were.

We ate in silence.

He cleared away, and then he said, "Shall I read to you?"

It would prevent us having to talk to each other. "Please."

He went to the bookshelf and pulled out a slim, leather-bound book. "This one ought to suit."

I looked at that bookshelf. "These are yours, are they not?"

"I thought you might enjoy some of them."

I stared at the wall.

He cleared his throat. "This is Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier. Chapter One. Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. …"

His voice washed over me like a drop of water creating smooth, even ripples in a quiet pond, and I was soon asleep again.

Until I, too, was traveling down the long road to Manderley, and I tried to get in, but those branches barred the way, and then the Dark Lord was there again with his smile, and this time, I heard the heavy breathing, and I screamed.

Someone was shaking me gently by the shoulders. I heard that voice break in its rhythm and start saying my name, over and over and over –

And then my world changed from black and white to small circles of black within a wider sea of blue, and then Albus's face came into my sight, and my relief was so great that I began to weep.

The blue sea glittered with me.

Eventually, after a good long while, I went to sleep again.

~~~~

'My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.

'Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.

'What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?

'I never know what you are thinking. Think.'

I think we are in rats' alley

Where the dead men lost their bones.

-T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land, "A Game Of Chess"



For a while, things were calm. I awakened about halfway through the night. Albus was reading again – Rebecca had been tossed aside for Chaucer. A small smile played on his face, and for a moment he was the Albus he had been before all of this happened – the lines of his face had lifted slightly, and his general mien seemed lighter. It was incredible what something as simple as a story managed to do for him – he lost himself, left reality completely.

I envied him.

I watched him for a while. Watching him made me leave for a while, too.

He rested the book on his lap and let out a small yawn; I had not seen him so unguarded since the funeral.

The funeral.

I shocked both of us out of our respective reveries with a sharp intake of breath. Albus looked up, startled; his own façade dropped down in front of him again. I could see it. "Hello, Minerva."

"Hello."

Albus looked over at the door. "Can I get you something?"

"No, thank you."

"Would you be opposed to a game of chess, then?"

Chess. Something idle, but not too idle. Something that would occupy the most important levels of my mind, prevent me from thinking about anything else. "A game of chess would be nice."

He helped me into my wheelchair with that same sort of innate grace that he always had about him, minus the feeling of authority that came with it. More and more, I was seeing him as a tired old man. He was not old, could not be old. He was reinforcing the fact that Theron –

No. I would not think it.

He settled me in the kitchen, wheeling me up to the table, where a board and pieces were set up. My black pieces were closest to me, and the bishops turned and bowed in greeting. I raised a hand in response.

Albus sat down across from me, extending a finger for his king to shake. After the necessary salutations were completed, we began. It started off slowly – my mind was rusty, and he was cautious, as usual. He always sounded out his opponent's strategy before finding the best way to strike, and then he would attack mercilessly. As the game picked up, however, he seemed a bit more subdued than usual; perhaps it was because I was more subdued than usual. My style consisted more of a full assault. When the front lines were weakened, I would find the weakest spots and take full advantage of them. In other words, his style was that of a fencer, and mine was that of a phalanx. We took an equal number of games off of each other. Tonight, however, he won fairly easily. He did not say anything, only put up the board and pieces. And then he turned on the radio. The WWN always played Muggle music during the watches of the night, and tonight was no exception. Tonight it was Mozart, but nothing painful – just a soothing clarinet concerto.

He helped me situate myself in one of the armchairs and put himself in the other, and for a while we listened, submerging ourselves. The music had a soporific quality, and it was not long before I fell asleep.

~~~~

(Slowly twisting the lilac stalks)

"You let it flow from you, you let it flow,

And youth is cruel, and has no remorse

And smiles at situations which it cannot see."

-T.S. Eliot, "Portrait Of A Lady"



My days fell into a pattern. I slept all day under the watchful eyes of Polly Pomfrey and awoke when Albus walked in the door. He would make dinner, and he would answer any questions I had about classes that day. He would read to me, and I would fall asleep for a while. I would wake up around three every morning, and we would silently go to the chessboard. He always won.

After two days, Albus made me begin walking again. The potion had shut down my nervous system and destroyed the synapses that made connections from the limbs to the brain, and it was not easy to get my legs back under me. Leaning heavily on him, and against my better judgment, we circumnavigated the flat over and over. I nearly fell many times, but he was always there with a steady arm.

His silence bothered me. He almost always hummed or sang to himself while he did mindless things such as our walking, but he did not do so now. The only sounds in the flat were my painful, ponderous steps and the unbearably loud ticking of the grandfather clock.

When he knew that someone needed to talk about something, he remained silent. It was as if he knew that it would be easier for the other person to instigate conversation. When it seemed as though the other was loath to begin, he would often ask a gentle leading question. But this silence – this silence was different. This silence was bewildered. This silence was hurt. He was always gentle, never reproachful – but it was there. I wanted to talk to him. I really did. But I did not. I would let my most pertinent injuries heal first, and then move on to the next ones.

At the end of that week, I could walk on my own. In two more days, I could walk normally without the assistance of a cane. I still suffered from hallucinations every now and then. Albus never said so, but I knew that he did not want to let me back into the classroom until he was fairly sure that there would be no more. According to the Israeli Potions master, it would be another week. And so I paced the flat at night, not able to sit still. I could not concentrate enough to read. I had not been out of the flat since Albus had brought me down. I paced while Albus read with his feet tucked under him.

And then one night, just after midnight, I had another hallucination. Instead of Tom Riddle coming for me, it was Albus. Albus stood over me, holding a dead and blackened lilac, and asked me in a thundering voice why I let him sit and grieve alone. Why I never let him talk to me. How I dared to let Death Eater spawn like my nephew in the same house as his son. He reached for me, and then he turned into a dementor –

And I ran for the kitchen and I got a knife out of the drawer. No more of this. No more. I shrieked and ran at Albus. I felt him catch my wrist as I raised it over my head. He twisted it, and the knife fell out. Kill me, I said. Just kill me.

"Minerva," he said. "Theron is dead. You are not."

My adrenaline level fell sharply. My vision cleared. I crumpled onto the sofa. I bowed my head and began to cry.

I felt a weight drop beside me. Two arms found their way around me, and Albus drew me to him.

And then he began to hum quietly.

It took me a moment to realize it. When I did, I began to laugh through my tears. I could talk to him again. It was all right. I recognized the tune as the middle movement – the painfully gentle adagio – of Cherrytree's Fifth. The piece my quartet had been playing the night I met Theron. It fit the moment's mood, and my tears slowly stopped as I listened, mentally adding the harmonies of the various parts.

When he finished, he was quiet. I could almost hear him composing the words that I knew would come. And then he said, "Minerva, I won't ask you why you tried to end your life. I won't ask you why you did not come to me to talk. Those are invalid questions. Theron is dead, you are not, and you need to carry on. Don't make his death mean nothing. Don't make the deaths of the rest of your family mean nothing. If you and I do not remember, then no one will. Minerva, don't – " There was a small hitch in his voice, and he said, voice overflowing with pain, "Don't leave me alone."

And as I realized how much he had depended on me ever since I had been made a prefect, and how hurt he truly was when I tried to kill myself, tears came to my eyes, his hold on me tightened, and he, too, began to shed tears.

And there we were, in the watches of the night, connecting and reconnecting by the light of the fire, while the world inhaled and exhaled around us.

~~~~

Comrades mine and I in the midst, and their memory ever to keep, for the dead I loved so well,

For the sweetest, wisest soul of all my days and lands -- and this for his dear sake,

Lilac and star and bird twined with the chant of my soul,

There in the fragrant pines and the cedars dusk and dim.

-Walt Whitman



I strode down the length of my classroom just in time to see Sirius Black throw a Filibuster Firework at Severus Snape on the other side of the room. I quickly drew my wand, halted its trajectory, and snuffed it neatly. "Five points from Gryffindor, Mr. Black, and detention tomorrow night. You will see me after class."

The entire class looked at me, jaws hanging – with one exception. Young Snape was giving me a calculating look, but not an entirely unfriendly one. I paused on my way up to my desk. "What's the matter with you all? You look like you've never seen your teacher before."

Eyes blinked. "Does anyone have anything to say?"

Lily Evans raised one timid hand. I nodded at her. "Yes?"

She said softly, "Welcome back."

That gave me pause. I stood there for a moment, looking at them all – those faces I had seen in the halls and in my classroom for the past five and a half years. I had watched these students grow and change. Some days it seemed like they knew nothing at all, and some days – like today – these children showed astonishingly astute signs of adulthood.

I said, "Thank you, Miss Evans." And I gave her a brief smile.

It was then that I saw the lilac left on my desk with a note under it in Albus's handwriting. The note read, For remembrance. Welcome back.

I looked at her, looked at Snape, looked at all of them. "It is good to be back. I am glad to be here."

And I was.

I sat behind my desk. "Where did Professor Dumbledore leave off? Anyone?"

And so it began again. My life. A different one – a very different one – but one that was one worth living. Worth fighting for.

And in a locked drawer in my room, there were pictures of a very different Minerva McGonagall with her husband. That chapter of my life was closed. A new one was opening. In order to understand this new one, the old one must be remembered, but with no more than a fond passing glance and a sigh.

It was closed.

"Open your books, please. We will begin the new chapter."