“The dream begins, most of the time, with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes you onto the next plateau and sometimes pokes you with the sharp stick called truth.” - D.Rather
She stood at the center of the podium, in the seat at the middle of the High table. Her robes were new and chosen with care, her hair was as always in a tight bun and hidden beneath her pointed hat. Her glasses stood on the tip of her nose as she scanned the students in the Hall with great interest.
Only by the wrinkles around her eyes and around her thin mouth could you tell that this was a woman that had seen life. Her eyes were as alive as they had ever been. But the movements of her body had become tired and her energy was not what it used to be. Every now and then, when her body would show signs of weakness she would think back at the days of the Wars, when she had fought side by side with some of the most talented witches and wizards of the time. Many of whom, she thought with pride, she had taught. Her body then, although aging, could take three Stunning spells to the chest. These days, she would get tired just by walking the first years from the grounds to the Hall. In the last years she had left that task to Hagrid.
Minerva McGonagall, Headmistress of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was getting old. Now nearing her 83rd birthday, she could feel her age and her many, many worries from the past catch up to her.
She had taken over the position almost a decade ago, after the death of her friend and mentor, Albus Dumbledore, at the end of the Second Wizard War when Voldemort and his followers had been banished from the grounds and defeated. It was home.
She spent her summers in the castle now, looking back on her long life. She sometimes caught herself remembering them in a way that her younger self would’ve disapproved. But those days are gone now and many of those who shared them with her were gone as well.
She would think of Robert, her Muggle father and Isobel, her witch mother, that had given up her magic ways in order to be with him. What a shock had it been when little Minerva, named for her very powerful maternal grandmother, had started to display signs of magic. What a shock had it been to Robert to discover what his wife really was. They had stayed together of course, it was no question really, they were bound by the Statute of Secrecy and his two sons Malcom and Robert Jr. also came to posses magical abilities. But living among Muggles always had little Minerva struggling to keep her abilities to herself and to not cause any trouble. The life they had in the village always forced her to pretend to be something she was not and even at an early age Minerva knew that she was special and she should take pride in it. It came as a relief to be off to Hogwarts in 1947. She was with her kind at last.
The relationship she had with her mother became strained with her departure to school. Isobel possed powerful magical abilities and regreted the fact that she had to give them up. It was strange to Minerva to see her mother be envious of her and she did not know how to react to the change in their relationship. It was the first heartbreak of her life, the first loss of innocence, when she realized that not even her mother was perfect and a stranger to the more petty of human feelings, such as envy and regret.
Her school years were marked by talent and curiosity, by a desire to exceed not only other’s expectations of her, but also hers. Albus Dumbledore had been her guide on the road to magical greatness.
She had discovered in him a man that could show her the right road to take in nurturing her talent and Minerva absorbed every bit of information he gave her like a sponge. He became her mentor and the man that would hold the most influence over her in the course of her lifetime.
Her O.W.Ls and N.E.W.Ts were exceeded only by her mentor, magic came as a second nature to her and she also discovered the pleasure of Quidditch. She was talented both in her school duties and in the field, riding a broom. She devoted her school years to her magical growth, never bothering with friends and silly teenage problems. It was one of the things she missed out on, she would realise later on, the joys of being young and carefree.
It came as no surprise when the Ministry of Magic offered her a position, upon her graduation. It was a good and respectable position and it made her feel like she would acheive everything she ever dreamed of. The fact that she would be separated forever from the Muggle world in which she grew up seemed a small price to pay.
As the day grew nearer, she left Hogwarts for her home in the Scottish Highlands to see her family before departing for a life in the magical community.
This part of her memories she had kept hidden many, many years. It was one of the mysteries of life, the depth of a woman's heart and how much sorrow could lay burried deep inside it. Love, she had learned, never goes away. Giving a piece of your heart to somebody meant that yours would always be incomplete, always longing to return to a time when the keeper of the missing piece was there. An 18 years old Minerva had fallen in love with a Muggle that summer. It was the kind of love that ignited like a wildfire and any attempt to extinguish it would only result in it burning harder. Dougal McGregor proposed to and she had said yes. Until, she realized, the marriage would mean giving up the thing she loved most. Her magic. She left the village heartbroken and never saw him again, learning later in life of his passing on. It was the second loss of innocence.
Minerva found her true calling in teaching, when her mentor turned friend Albus Dumbledore offered her his position as Tranfiguration professor when he became Headmaster. She mved to Hogwarts and the castle became home for the woman.
It was the death of Dougal which made her accept the proposal of her long time admirer, one Elphinstone Urquart, making her leave the home she had found at Hogwarts. They wed in 1982 but he died just three years later, leaving her to return to Hogwarts and never looking to find a more suitable home. She sealed their cottage in Hogsmeade and never looked back, finding no comfort or solace in her memories from their life together. Perhaps she was not made for a family life, her place was with the children, teaching and helping them grow. Her innocence was long gone.
Clearing her mind of those thoughts, she looked at the first years now lined in front of her, waiting to get sorted. Many faces she recognized. It was one of the things she loved most about being a teacher. She could get to see how the generations had grown, what they had done and how they had fallen in love.
Some of them were new faces, Muggle-born witches and wizards that were just now coming into their magic. Some would be great one day, others would not, but they would all find a home in the castle. That was the magic of Hogwarts. Other children were mixtures of her former students. She smiled as she saw the Weasley hair gracing the head of one Fred Weasley Jr., son of George and Angelina. Behind him in the great clutter of first years, a mop of untidy jet black hair stood out. Potter hair. James Sirius Potter was named after two of the most notorious students of Hogwarts, James Potter and Sirius Black, and his father was perhaps the most well known wizard in existence. Harry Potter, former Boy Who Lived, the Chosen One, the one that had put a stop to the last wizard war and returned their hope in better days.
They had a gleam in their eyes, they weren’t as scared as the other young students. And with a great sigh, Minerva looked back on the other pairs of children that she had seen along the years.
First, it was in 1971. James Potter had come to Hogwarts, alongside Sirius Black, his first cousin once removed. Minerva had learned by now, of course, that some families liked to marry their cousins, to ensure purity of the blood. In this case, one Charlus Potter, which she remembered from her first year of school as being Head Boy, had married Dorea Black, aunt of one Walburga Black. From the latter’s marriage to her second cousin Orion Black, came Sirius, who was now standing next to James in a proud manner, holding himself as one would expect from the heir of the Black throne. The boys’ time would soon come to an end though.
While Dorea had taken after the Potter’s tolerant way of life, Walburga was the worst sort of traditionalist. Her family had been in Slytherin for centuries and all those who dared go against the family views were thrown out of the family, never to be spoken to again. Minerva placed the Sorting Hat gently on Sirius Black’s head and to her surprise and the surprise of most of the Hall, he became the first Black in Gryffindor.
This was how the Marauders were born. It took every diplomatic fiber in Minerva’s being to not strangle the four boys as they went about their seven years of school, turning hair green and revealing people’s underpants by hanging them upside down by their legs. But she did right in standing by them. They became true men, loyal, trustworthy and brave. Most of them at least. She had learned later on in life how Peter Pettigrew, bound by Harry’s courage had been forced to kill himself, rather than slay the one he owed his life to.
She had fought side by side with them, up until the very end. She saw how love blossomed between James Potter and Lily Evans Potter. She saw the bundle of joy that was Harry. She saw how the Noble House of Black became extinct in its male line with the death of Sirius Black. She saw how Remus Lupin fought to the death to give Harry Potter his best chance. And she saw the pride that glowed inside Teddy Remus Lupin whenever he was told of the role his late parents held in the downfall of Lord Voldemort.
A few years later she had met the Weasley Twins. Pureblooded, extremely skilled and intelligent and also a magnet for trouble. If she had thought the Marauders a challenge, they were nothing compared to those two. Always together, reading each others minds, completing each others sentences, the Weasley Twins had been her biggest academic challenge. But they had proved that they were brave at heart, helping get rid of Dolores Umbridge and sacrificing themselves for the cause.
George Weasley lost his soul mate on the 2nd of May 1998 during the Battle of Hogwarts. But it was through great courage and sacrifice that Fred Weasley was now able to return to Hogwarts, as his 11 years old nephew, the spitting image of his father and uncle. The Weasley legacy lived on.
James Sirius Potter made her think of a different time in her life. A time of both great joy and of great sorrow. She had been his father’s keeper for many years of her life. During the parties that followed the events on Halloween of 1981 she had been sent to observe his Muggle relatives in Animagus form and had to bear witness to the heart break that was abandoning Harry Potter to a life of neglect and abuse. Given the choice, she would’ve cared for Lily’s son herself. But Albus had other plans for him and bless his soul, he always got his way. The man had planned everything up to the events leading to his death and beyond that.
She had seen Harry Potter grow, witnessed his hard childhood in Surrey, saw how he blossomed into a young man before her eyes, the image of his father, but bearing the kindness and soul of his mother. He had fulfilled his destiny and made a life for himself, entering one of the largest wizard families and working on enlarging it. Hogwarts had helped him find a home of his own.
Minerva McGonagall took a deep breath as she stood up, her legs trembling slightly. She looked at her table now. Pomona Sprout, the only friend she held since their school days, Filius Flitwick, always helpful and loyal, Horace Slughorn, still collecting his students as if they were gems. Neville Longbottom. A smile played at her lips. Son of Alice and Frank, he had displayed little magical ability at first. She was as surprised as any when he became a Gryffindor. But faced with adversity he had grown into his father’s son and fought even when all hope was lost. And today, he would be taking Pomona’s place in the greenhouse, leading new generations into knowledge and life.
Yet she knew, in her old age, that things would not always be so perfect. Hard times had come and gone and they were sure to return, just as sure as the sun would rise the next day. Fred Weasley and James Sirius Potter were young and reckless and through them, the Marauders would return to Hogwarts. And the surest thing of all. She was too old to be able to keep up with them. She spread her elegant arms and the hall was silenced.
“Good evening and welcome to a new year here at Hogwarts. It is a new beginning for some of you, a return to your education for many more. It is a time of joy and a time of inner analysis. It is also a time for change. As several senior members of our staff have announced their decision to retire, I must tell you that, after seventy years spent in this school, either as a student or as a teacher, my time has also come to an end. I trust you all shall become highly valuable members of our world and are each destined for great things. I leave you with just one advice, no matter where life may want to lead you, always follow your heart and you will be on the right path.”
The hall fell silent at her words, the students' faces looking at her in shock. For in that moment they were witnessing a day like no other. The last Hogwarts day of Minerva McGonagall. The end of an era.
AN: Plot bunny that would not let me sleep at night. :) I don't own anything, everything is strictly cannon and thus belongs to JKR. Happy reading!