The Chief Warlock looked down at Minerva, displeasure written all over his face. "We have only one last question for you: did your experimentations prove your theory correct?"
Minerva glanced over at her former teacher as Dumbledore quietly entered the room and took his seat. He had finally returned from wherever he had disappeared to. He didn't bother to look at Minerva. The young woman took a deep breath and focused her gaze back towards the Chief Warlock. This was it. Every fiber of her being balked against the lie she was about to tell. She was so proud of her work.
But she didn't want to be the cause of any more violence.
"No," Minerva answered.
Robert had encouraged Minerva in developing her theory. He had been fascinated with how the laws of physics related to magic and was in complete awe of her power. He had wanted to know how it worked as much as Minerva did. Minerva had had no idea that he was working on something too until one day he decided to surprise her.
He took her by the hand and holding his cane in the other he led her through Edinburgh, limping down the streets. They came to a friend's house, a fellow student at the university. It was a rather large and grand townhouse – nowhere near as fine as her own childhood home, but a respectable, if a little ostentatious, residence at any rate – that belonged to his friend's parents. They had given the two boys permission to convert one of the spare rooms into a laboratory to conduct their experiments. It had every amenity available to the two, bought for them by the parents of the young man no doubt. He took her to the laboratory, set his cane on one of the desks, and opened the safe to reveal the strange gun-like contraption.
"I call it a Disintegration Ray," he stated proudly. "You remember me telling you about those, right? They're a common device in science fiction."
"Hmm," Minerva vaguely replied. Robert sometimes read to her aloud from his collection of cheap, pulp novels, but she wouldn't say that she actually bothered to pay attention to them. It wasn't as though they were considered great literature. At least, she hoped Muggles didn't consider those penny dreadfuls to be great works of literature. "What does a… Disintegration Ray do again?"
Robert grinned at her. "Exactly the same thing that spell of yours does. Evanesco, right? It pulls apart the individual atoms that make up an object, absorbing the excess energy and radiation, until there's nothing left. Here, watch."
Robert lifted the device and pointed it at a pencil left lying on one of the desks. He squeezed the trigger and a ray of light shot out. Within seconds the pencil was gone. Minerva stood there in amazement. Her theory… it worked! All she could do was stand there and gape.
"Isn't it great, Minerva?" Robert beamed. "I admit that I was unsure that I would be able to duplicate your magic – not without severe repercussions at any rate – but it worked! Just think: your theory could change the entire world! This device… it will save millions of lives. With this Britain will win the war!"
Minerva blinked rapidly as her brain caught up with what Robert was saying. She grinned and nodded enthusiastically at his plans. She could use her work to help the Muggle World! All the pain and fear that the Muggles were forced to suffer through would be gone! "We could Vanish entire factories! The Germans can't win a war if they can't produce the technology!"
"That's right! Hell, they won't be able to win a war if they haven't got any soldiers!"
Minerva felt an icy chill run through her at that. She cocked her head, looking up at Robert. "I don't understand. You mean… Vanish people?"
Robert shrugged. "Of course. This is war."
"But…" Minerva shook her head, trying to understand her lover. "With this power you don't have to kill anyone! They'll be helpless against a device like this!"
"Minerva, they're Nazis. They don't deserve our sympathy."
"But they're still people!" Minerva admonished. "I don't want my work to cause the deaths of thousands of people!"
"Don't you understand? We'll be saving lives!"
"And destroying others!"
Suddenly Minerva found herself back inside the Ministry chamber. She pushed the memories away as the Chief Warlock once more focused his attention on her.
"We have deliberated on this matter and we have decided that all charges have been dismissed. The Wizengamot feels…"
Minerva couldn't hear the rest. All the tension of the past two days fled her body and she felt her knees begin to shake. She remained standing tall and straight, however. She didn't want to show them just how worried she had been. As the members of the council began to file out Minerva was seized with a desire to see Robert. She wondered if he was worried about her. She had left so suddenly. Would he be angry with her? He would know by now that his device and everything that he had worked on was gone. With her missing it would be logical to conclude that she had something to do with the device's destruction. It didn't matter. She needed to see him. She needed to explain.
As soon as she was outside of the chamber she Apparated to Edinburgh.
Minerva rushed up the steps towards the little flat that sat above the butcher's shop. The moment she reached the door she saw it open to reveal Robert's handsome face.
"Robert!" She gasped, her hand still poised above the door handle.
Robert pulled back in surprise. "Oh! I'm sorry if I startled you. I was just on my way out," he said as a way of explanation.
Minerva frowned in confusion. "Didn't you… didn't you notice I was gone?" She asked. He was acting so nonchalant. She expected… she expected something. Joy, anger, disappointment… anything other than this polite indifference.
Robert gave her a strange look. "I don't understand. Gone from where? Look, do I know you? Are you a student from the university?"
Minerva opened her mouth but no sound came out. He didn't know who she was. Why didn't he know her? "Oh," she whispered. It came to her like an epiphany. She really should have realized it sooner. "I… I'm very sorry, I… I've got the wrong address." Her voice sounded very hoarse and she turned away, shakily making her way down the steps.
Robert reached out to grab her arm. "Are you alright? Do you need me to call someone for you?" He asked, the concern evident in his voice.
Minerva slipped out of his grasp and walked off without saying another word. She couldn't look at him. She was afraid she would start to cry if she looked at him. She stumbled into the alley, blindly trying to find her way out.
"I'm sorry. I wanted to tell you before, but you left in such a hurry."
Minerva slowly turned around to face Albus Dumbledore. If she was in a generous mood she might have recognized the pained expression of resignation and sympathy. She found that she really didn't care about what he was feeling at the moment.
"I wouldn't have done it if the device hadn't worked," Dumbledore explained. "I believe I Obliviated most of his friends and acquaintances– those that would know about you." He took a step towards her. "Minerva, this was for the best. You cannot simply give someone that sort of power and then take it away; he never would have been satisfied. You, yourself, stated that you didn't think the Muggles should have this sort of power. He was a smart lad; he did it once, he would have been able to figure it out how to make that machine again." He took another half-step. "I understand what you are feeling, to lose someone that you-"
Minerva Apparated away before he could finish his sentence.
Minerva looked out onto the lake. Merlin, she hated this place.
With a heave she used the oar to push herself away from the bank and began to row towards its center.
Since the trial life had taken on a boring, predictable routine. She had become the dutiful daughter that her mother had always wanted. She stayed at home and helped her mother host her little parties, discussed polite topics when one of her suitors came to visit, and kept her opinions to herself. After all what else was she going to do? Go into magical research? She would be laughed out of the academic community. It was too bad Georgiana seemed rather put-off and uneasy by this unexpected change. Minerva could tell she was worried about her, but she knew Georgiana would never question it. Her mother was finally able to keep her last remaining child with her at all times, safe and secure under her ever watchful eyes.
She and Georgiana had gone to Diagon Alley the other day and on a whim Minerva had decided to visit Muggle London while her mother was outfitted with a new robe. The moment she entered she was immediately bombarded with the news: the United States had dropped the atomic bomb on a city called Hiroshima. Germany had already been defeated and everyone was now predicting when Japan would surrender as well. It was bewildering; she had not kept up with the Muggle war since the trial, having been too caught up in news of Dumbledore's triumph over Grindelwald.
Minerva rowed harder, feeling the burn beginning to creep into her shoulders. It had been a while since she had done something this physical. She wasn't Gryffindor's champion Quidditch player anymore.
She heard the stories about the devastation the bomb had caused. With a bomb like that she doubted even the Wizarding population of that city had survived. She supposed she should feel gratified that she had chosen 'correctly.' Who knows what would have happened if she hadn't destroyed Robert's device. She gripped the oars tighter. That was the point wasn't it? No one would know what would have happened. Maybe it was for the best, maybe it wasn't.
Minerva let her arms fall as she came to the center of the lake. She leaned over and looked down at the murky water. William's body had been buried in the McGonagall family plot, but she always felt that his soul had remained here.
She didn't really remember her older brother. He had died when she was seven. Everyone told her that she had followed him around like a lost puppy and that she had worshipped the ground he walked on. Minerva couldn't really say if that was true or not. She couldn't even remember what he looked like; all she knew was what she saw in photographs. He looked a lot like her.
She thought she might have remembered the day he died, although she couldn't be sure if it was a memory or just a dream. He was seventeen and had just graduated from Hogwarts. They had been born ten years apart; Minerva's arrival had been quite a surprise for her parents after all that time. She had heard that he was witty and handsome and smart from various relatives, although she didn't know how much of that was true and how much of it was said in kindness of the dead. She didn't know why he came to the lake that day or what had happened. When she was younger she had racked her brain, trying to figure out what sort of accident could have occurred that an accomplished wizard like her brother couldn't escape from. She never did think anything.
Minerva did find out many years later that on the day after William's death one of his old roommate's committed suicide.
Minerva tried to call up that half-forgotten memory. She thought she had been standing there on the shore, waving as he rowed off. She waited for him that day by the bank, playing with the rocks until he came back. She must have waited for hours and hours.
"William?" She called out softly. She felt stupid for doing this. William wasn't a ghost and he most certainly wasn't haunting the lake of all places. No one came out here so there wouldn't be much reason to haunt it, now would there? "If you're here… I need your help. I don't know what I should do anymore… Everything that I have ever wanted has been taken away…. What's left for me now?"
Of course there was nothing, just the sound of the water gently lapping against the sides of the boat. Minerva frowned at her blurry reflection and picked up the oars. She rowed back to the shore feeling just as lost and empty.
She saw her mother before the older woman saw her. As Minerva pulled up towards the bank Georgiana jumped up from where she had been sitting on the ground; her new, elegant robe now filthy from the mud. Georgiana latched onto her daughter's arm, helping her out of the boat. Minerva could feel her shaking slightly.
Georgiana gave a slight, hesitant laugh. It sounded horribly fake. "I thought you…" She trailed off, still holding on tightly as they made their way back to Blackmore. Georgiana took a shaky breath and gave Minerva a wan smile.
After a while, Georgiana tried again. "I wanted to tell you, your father has been speaking with a friend who lives abroad in Austria," she began, as though nothing had happened. Minerva nodded, keeping up the pretense for Georgiana's sake. "They're trying to rebuild now that Grindelwald has been defeated and they want to start a school for young witches. They are looking for teachers and since you're so brilliant at Transfiguration I thought you might be interested. Teaching is a very respectable occupation for a young, unmarried witch. Mind you, it will most likely only be temporary, not to mention difficult. If you would rather stay here that will suit your father and I just fine."
Minerva smiled down at her mother. Yes, she supposed teaching wouldn't be too bad, as long as she would be able to help.
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