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Where Angels Fear to Tread by Sir Thopas
Chapter 2 : Chapter 2
 
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Minerva sat alone, staring up into the stern, unmoving faces of the Wizengamot.

It was all so intimidating. Minerva was nervous and unsure of what she should do. She had no one to turn to. Everywhere she looked there was another scowling face staring down at her, damning her for her opinions and thoughts and beliefs. She was… frightened, she would admit it. It was strange; she had never been truly afraid before. If only her mother's friends could see her now! They would feel positively vindicated. She remembered her mother's friends: the high-class and beautiful Pureblood witches who would come around for tea and lunch every couple of days. They were always so exasperated by Minerva's stubborn and tomboyish ways – although none more so than her own mother – and would often advise her by saying, "Minerva, dear, you're a very willful girl and boys just do not know how to handle that."

How that used to rile Minerva up! As if she would ever allow a man to handle her! Of course, those ladies have probably heard all about the trial by now. Tomorrow afternoon they would be sitting in some parlor lamenting Minerva's fate in a tone that would hint at the malicious glee they truly felt. "Poor Georgiana," they would sigh. "To have such a daughter. We did try to warn Minerva, did we not? But no, little Minerva McGonagall always insisted on learning everything the hard way. And now look at what has happened!"

Minerva continued to helplessly scan the sea of faces surrounding her, her despair growing by the minute until her eyes landed upon a very familiar face. She could recognize the graying beard and the brilliant blue eyes anywhere. Albus Dumbledore gave her a soft, encouraging smile when she saw him and Minerva smiled back weakly.

"Please state your name for the record," the Chief Warlock commanded.

"Minerva McGonagall." Minerva cringed with a flush of embarrassment at how her voice trembled.

"On May 30, 1944 you published an article in Transfiguration Journal called 'The Atom: Proof of the Link Between Science and Magic.'" The tall, imposing wizard fixed Minerva with a hard glare. "In it you claimed that with the…" Here the wizard paused and looked down at his parchment with an intent gaze, sounding out the strange Muggle word for the first time. "Tek-nol-o-gee of Muggles was rapidly advancing to a point where Muggles would be able to simulate magic and perhaps even surpass us in terms of power."

There was a lot of mumbling at this point, but Dumbledore kept his soft gaze fixed on his former student.

The head wizard waved his hand towards Minerva, mockingly. "Please, enlighten us as to how you think this could possibly happen."

Minerva took a deep breath as a feeling of calmness spread over her. She knew her work. It was flawless. "I can only speak at length on Transfiguration, as it is my own particular field of study," Minerva stated. "But, to begin with, through science Muggles have discovered that all things – animate and inanimate – are made up of atoms. These atoms combine to form molecules. The combination of certain atoms creates certain things. For example, one molecule of water consists of two hydrogen atoms attached to one oxygen atom. When we use the spell Aguamenti we use our own bodies to channel a… a magnetic force, if you will. We pull free-floating atoms and bind them to create water. We've been so unaware of the physical properties of the universe because this sort of thing comes naturally to us, but the Muggles have experimented and observed. They've broken down the universe to its smallest unit and are experimenting."

The entire Wizengamot was silent at the end of her speech. How daunting it must be for them, Minerva thought. Even for those who didn't believe in all that Pureblood supremacy, it was terrifying to know that what made you special – what made you a wizard or a witch – would one day mean nothing. The Muggle World had its place and the Wizarding World theirs, but Minerva could see that one day those lines would begin to blur and cross. And that was downright frightening for some people.

Suddenly someone coughed. In the silent room the sound was nearly deafening.

Everyone turned to look at Dumbledore as he cleared his throat. He seemed amused by all the attention. "Although not everyone may agree with Miss McGonagall's theories, I was not aware that having an opinion was now illegal."

The Chief Warlock shot Dumbledore with a look. "It is if it proves dangerous. Not to mention she has been charged with exposing our secrets to the Muggle World and that is illegal."

"Well, let's start with the beginning," a plump witch declared. She looked down at the young girl seated before the court with a sympathetic gaze. "Tell us: how did you first come into contact with Muggle science?"

Minerva remembered that quite well and, ironically enough, her first contact with the Muggle World came about because of wizards.

It was the summer of 1937 when Minerva received her invitation to join Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It hadn't been unexpected. She'd been anxiously awaiting for her letter since the first day of summer. She couldn't wait to leave. The old castle was always so cold. It was like she could still feel him.

She was having breakfast with her parents. Her mother was impeccably dressed as usual; her hair tied up into an elegant chignon. She moved her spoon so fastidiously, cautious of spilling even a drop. Her father was dressed as well, though unshaven and his hair still wild from sleeping on it. Nobody said anything. Nobody looked at each other.

It had always been like that ever since her brother William had died. Minerva supposed that they had once been a happy family that talked to each other and asked about their day but she couldn't remember that far back. As far as she was concerned the silent rooms and distant relationships were normal. Minerva was well aware that no matter how many years went by William would always be in the forefront of her mother and father's thoughts. William had passed on; he wasn't ghost, there was no haunting, but there might as well be. His memory still followed them wherever they went, turning his family into virtual strangers.

Then, suddenly, a letter dropped from the sky into Minerva's porridge. Minerva crowed in delight and went to snatch it up, but her mother, quick as lightening, daintily picked it up and wiped the envelope with the edge of her napkin. "Sit down, Minerva," she chastised. "And sit up straight. Slouching will give you a hunch like your Aunt Cressida and you don't want to be an old spinster like her, now do you?"

Minerva huffed and crossed her arms as she watched her mother wave her wand over the envelope, pulling out the letter.

"Don't cross your arms like that, it's not ladylike," Georgiana stated without bothering to look up. Minerva scowled. Somehow her mother just always knew when she wasn't being 'ladylike' even without looking. "Ah, now, here is what it says: 'Dear Miss McGonagall, we are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment. Term begins on September 1. Note that changes have been made regarding to the transportation of students." At this Georgiana shared a significant look with her husband Julius. "Carriages will no longer be provided for students without means of travel. Instead, students are required to board the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9 ¾ at King's Cross station in London."

"London?" Minerva leaned forward excitedly. "I get to go to London?" She had never even travelled farther than the surrounding Scottish countryside before.

Her parents ignored her. "Hogwarts Express? What is that?" Her father demanded. "A station for what?"

"Flying carpets maybe?"

It wasn't a station for flying carpets. Georgiana clutched her daughter's hand tightly in her own as they made their way through the Muggle building. Minerva bounced excitedly on her heels as she stared at all the strangely dressed people, gaping with her mouth open at the Muggle girls flashing their calves in their slinky dresses. There was no way that they were wearing petticoats underneath those skirts. "Stop staring," her mother commanded as her eyes darted nervously from Muggle to Muggle. "And close your mouth. We don't want to attract attention. Who knows what might happen!"

Minerva suspected that they were already attracting quite a lot of attention, but she refrained from telling her mother that.

Julius came to a stop at the divide between Platforms 9 and 10. He gestured for the women to go first before following after them. He crashed straight into his wife's bustle as he realized that his wife and daughter were standing stock still, staring wide-eyed at the red mechanical behemoth before them. Blazoned across its metal side were the words 'Hogwarts Express.'

"What is that thing?" Georgiana gasped.

"It's a train," came the voice of a blonde girl trying to squeeze past the McGonagalls, who remained blocking the portal. The girl rolled her eyes as she pushed her trunk past Georgiana's voluminous Victorian dress.

"We should probably hurry, Georgie," Julius said, taking his wife gently by the elbow, trying to lead her and his daughter towards the Muggle contraption.

Georgiana barely seemed to notice her husband's presence. She slowly shook her head, her eyes riveted to the monstrosity.

"Georgie…"

"No!" Georgiana gasped. "I will not allow our daughter on that thing! It's… it's Muggle whatever it is! It's unsafe! How… How does that thing even move?"

"I'm sure they've enchanted-"

"No!" Georgiana declared again while trying to herd Minerva back through the divide. "I will now allow it! She could be killed!"

At once Julius grew quiet and pale, nodding in assent to his wife's hysterics. Minerva was their only remaining child left. They had to keep her safe by any means necessary. "Alright, we'll take her to Hogwarts ourselves."

Minerva pouted and planted her feet into the ground, forcing her mother to push her through the divide. "But I want to ride the train!" Minerva cried out. She found the strange Muggle thing absolutely fascinating. She wondered what it looked like on the inside. Her mother barely even registered Minerva's protests. Minerva sulked as she was pulled from the station. It's all William's fault, Minerva thought bitterly. If he hadn't died then Mother wouldn't be so over-protective. He's dead! Why does he have to keep ruining everything?

Every year Minerva would continue to plead with her parents to let her ride the Hogwarts Express and every year they would refuse. Julius and Georgiana were hardly unique in this; the vast majority of Pureblood families refused to allow their children onto the train and were outraged by this sudden change, despite the practicality of it. There seemed to be more and more Muggleborns every year and they needed a way to get to Hogwarts that wouldn't look suspicious to Muggles. But the Purebloods didn't care. All they knew was that it was something different. The more Muggleborns that came to Hogwarts the more they perverted the Wizarding culture with their Muggle ideas and contraptions. It wasn't until after Hogwarts that Minerva experienced her first train ride with Robert on a real Muggle train.

He had sat next to her, despite the fact that they were the only ones in the carriage. "Excited?" He had asked.

Minerva turned away from the window where she had been watching the passing scenery to smile at him. A broom was faster, but the train was just so strange and new.

Robert returned her smile and took her hand.
 


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