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Lead the Way, and I will Follow by frostedteardrops
Chapter 1 : Lead the Way, and I will Follow
 
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Note: All belongs to the amazing JK Rowling. A few lines are taken right from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. What you don't recognize is mine. Critiques welcomed and encouraged. Enjoy:


Numbness. It was the only thing filling the empty void that his death had left. Nothing mattered anymore--the only thing that she had cared about, the only thing that she had left in the world, was him, and he was gone. She stared blankly ahead, lost in her thoughts. None dared to reach for her, to bring her out of her reverie.


The Great Hall was filled with the sounds of subdued eating from the few students who could still stomach a meal so soon after his death. She wanted to scream, wanted to literally hurt them. "How could you still go on as if nothing has changed?" she wanted to shout, wanted to shake them until she had a satisfying answer. But she stayed silent.


Finally she rose painfully to her feet. It was time to face the truth. She cleared her throat, and vaguely noticed the mournful hum fade almost immediately, as though the students were in awe and fear of her. They probably were. "It is nearly time," she said. "Please follow your Heads of House out into the grounds. Gryffindors, after me."


In silence, she led them towards the lake. In silence, but for the rustling of the robes of those heading towards the lake. The rustle that she would never again hear from his robes. She supervised as the pupils of her house settled down into the hundreds of rows of chairs set out. She was restless--today was in no way a day that she could remain calm and sit.


Other civilians from the wizarding community began to arrive, fanning out across the grassy slope of the shore of the lake. The barely visible ghosts floated solemnly down to join the group.


Her legs felt weak, and she wanted to throw up. Keeping her composure in front of all these people was becoming increasingly difficult. She sat down in a chair in the very front row. The Minister of Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour, joined her not long after. Indifference was the only emotion she felt. Frankly, did it really matter whether or not she was alone right now? Did she need to be, in order to gather her thoughts and heal to prepare for the upcoming ordeal? With a jolt in the pit of her stomach, she realised that really, she didn't even care.


Ethereal music floated across the water, as a chorus of singing merpeople broke the lake's smooth, sunlit surface. She turned her head, feeling sick, feeling real. The music was so beautiful, yet so chilling and mournful.


Hagrid proceeded down the aisle, tears streaking down his face for all to see, carrying a bundle of purple velvet splattered with gleaming gold stars. It was his body. At the sight, despite her best efforts, she could no longer hold in the tears, and let them fall freely, cascading down onto her lap, turning her deep green robe a swampy color. After placing the body on the table with utmost care, Hagrid retreated back down the aisle, making loud unseemly noises that drew more than a few glares of disapproval.


A tiny, furry-haired wizard a third of the size of Hagrid approached his body and began a lengthy speech. She didn't listen, tuning it all out, thinking not of the generalisations made about his productive life, but as she knew him, all the odd yet lovable things about him. Lemon drops, and odd words, his never-ceasing amusmant, great capacity to forgive...

More merpeople came to listen, and the centaurs stood silently at the edge of the clearing, watching, listening. Finally, finally the little wizard finished his speech and resumed his seat.


Nothing happened for a few moments, then bright milky flames erupted around the table upon which his body lay. It rose into the hair smoothly and suddenly, with white smoke fanning out in spirals. When the air cleared, nothing reamined but a smooth, cold, white marble tomb, obscuring his body from view for the rest of eternity.


Volleys of arrows flew through the air, the centarus' last tribute. Shortly thereafter, the crowd slowly dissipated, leaving her alone with her grief and tears. This was goodbye.




She sat at the top of the astronomy towers, overlooking the grounds of Hogwarts. The grounds with he had loved so givingly, had given up everything for to protect. She sat with her arms wrapped around her knees, rocking back and forth against the slight chill of the June night. Was it really still the same day as his funeral? It seemed like much more time had passed since.


Unable to hold them any longer, tears leaked inconspiciously out of the corners of her eyes. "Albus," she whispered, not really expecting an answer. She didn't receive one.


The brick and motar of the castle's great walls felt cold through the thin robes against her back. She imagined him saying "Minerva" back to her in that speical way that he had always used to murmur her name, portraying a thousand emotions in that one simple word.


Minerva. It meant Goddess of Wisdom. She sure didn't feel very wise right now, and she felt even less like a goddess. And yet... she had, once. Back when Albus was still alive. There was something very special about that man, in a peculiar way. He brought out the best in her, made her feel alive, and pretty, and young again. With one sweet glance he could erase all the pains of her affected childhood. With one word, he made her feel as alive as a new born babe. With one caress he made her feel as beautiful as the great, beautiful witch Aphrodite herself.


He taught her to smile again, to feel to joy again, to love again--all basic skills which she'd lost at a very young age.


And now he was gone.


She saw the spot where he'd fallen. It was so hard to believe, that he was gone. She tapped her head none too softly against the wall of the castle turrent within which the Astronomy Tower was located. Gone, gone, gone. Forever. The one thing that had meant anything at all to her.


"Please," Minerva whispered. "Albus." She was replied with nothing but the cheeful chirping of crickets preparing for summer. She sighed. What did she expect really?


But... tonight was the last night. The students and Ministry officals were all leaving in the morning, as was she. Order business was now her priority, as her only other concern had now been so sternly stripped from her.


Damn that Severus Snape! He--he was the one who had taken her beloved away from her. Damn her lover's ignorance to the man's dark side. Look where that left her!


Finally, she calmed down. She'd come preparing to make a whole speech, to say goodbye to Albus in private--and yet, now that she was actually here, she realised that there was no need. He knew. And that was all she needed.


The final war was coming, and that was what was important now. Would she survive it? Who knew. She stood up, and dusted off her robes. She glanced towards the lake once again. 


"Lead the way, Albus," Minerva McGonagall said caressively, "and I shall follow." That was all that was needed.




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