Smile though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking.
Work before family. The words seemed to echo in Minerva’s mind though she’d never really said them aloud, though she meant them. This time though, Isobel needed her daughter, without realising she was even there. Almost as if a disillusion charm had been cast over the eyes of a tiring woman, a sick woman. Isobel couldn’t see that her child, now an older, wiser woman was treating her at any moment she could, since Minerva’s father had passed away, she swore she would keep his memory alive for her mother until she too, departed.
Dementia. It was a word which Minerva caused her spirit to burn, with a candle scorching it, and set its core on fire. Her mother had been forced to go to St Mungos by Robert Jr, Minerva’s brother who sensed that something was wrong. Like her soul, was slowly fading away.
The young transfiguration professor took her mother to the hospital, where a kind healer who went by the name of Audrey explained the situation calmly Isobel’s daughter. She explained in the nicest means possible, that allowing Minerva to give her treatment would only keep her alive a little longer and the brain would just fall apart at a slower and perhaps a more painful rate if you knew you were sick. The healer left it in the hands of Minerva, to break the news to Isobel as gently as she could. How? Would anyone be able to tell their mother you’ll leave this world without a memory, and that those you love will slowly descend into strangers, and no face will be recognisable? Minerva didn’t like to lie, but she didn’t have the strength to let her mother know she was dying. Wiping away the tears that stung her eyes like a hornet, Minerva threw on her best smile, and faced her mother and grabbed her hand. I can do this,
she thought, her heart racing.
“M-M-Minerva. What’s wrong with me love?” Her mother whispered; the fear of being unwell causing her to fall quiet.
“Nothing’s wrong mother, we’re going to be fine.” She lied, and her heart ripped in two. Liar. Liar. Liar.
A voice called, running round Minerva’s head screaming it every time she looked her mum in the eye.
When there’s a cloud in the sky
you’ll get by
If you smile
through your fear and sorrow
No one else would care; she was just a woman who had suffered from so much deceit and jealousy that it had caught up with poor Isobel, and soon it would catch up to her daughter. She had lied to protect her mother from the heartbreak, yet it only scarred them both more.
The ill mother didn’t know what was wrong with her, and in the early stages she believed she was going insane, and Minerva just threw lies upon lies, hoping her mother would fall for them. She didn’t believe that a woman that had just reached fifty years of age had a mind that was slowly deteriorating. Minerva had to carry on the way she had done before. There were slight alterations in her line of work, instead she never attended the evening feast and had an elf save her a small glass of scotch and a small meal so that she would find the time to eat and mark essays in which her dear friend and colleague, Albus would pitch in. He would insist she found time off work, but life went on, and Minerva couldn’t stop because her life, her mother’s life, was changing.
Sometimes, Isobel would forget about magic, and on the odd occasion Minerva herself would forget and apparate into the home, making her poor mother jump out of her skin.
Minerva would look back on that cool summers evening when her mother screamed at the sight of her,
“GET AWAY FROM ME! GET AWAY YOU MONSTER. ROBERT! ROBERT! THERE’S A WOMAN IN THE HOUSE, GET MINERVA OUT, THERE’S A WOMAN HERE.” She would urge desperately, unsure of who her own daughter was, yet she wanted to secure her safety.
“Mother, it’s me. Hush now, I’m Minerva. Dad’s not here, I’m....I’m sorry I scared you.” She said softly to the unstable woman before her. Her eyes were empty, Isobel McGonagall was long gone. Instead there was just a woman with flickers of her memories, and those small parts of her that were Isobel, were slowly burning out.
and maybe tomorrow
you’ll see the sun come shining through
Some mornings Minerva had to arrive early, and wait for her mother to wake from a peaceful slumber to help her get dressed. There would be mumbles of, I can do it woman! And some songs would be hummed as she didn’t fuss or fight over losing out on independence. Healers did offer to come, and by that time Minerva had discussed it with Isobel, claiming she was just “a little under the weather” however the woman would scowl and grumble,
“Not on your bloody life.”
some days the whole family would come, Robert Jr, Malcolm with their children, and sometimes wives, Minerva would arrive by herself, sometimes in her feline form to entertain the bairns. Isobel seemed to be amused as well, watching a woman change form was something out of the norm. As the children would play outside they all sat and just watched Isobel, who was sipping at a cold cup of tea with a half hearted grin.
“You know,” and in unison all eyes were drawn to this woman, who simply uttered a few words.
“My daughter, Minerva, she’s lovely. She got her letter for Hogwarts and I was so proud, I had to cry.” Minerva recalled that day perfectly, as her mother burst into tears over the breakfast table. Minerva thought she’d done something wrong, her brothers didn’t have a letter, and neither did her mother. The poor eleven year old didn’t want to go a big frightening school on her own. She left her food, and followed her mother to her bedroom, where she sat and sobbed by an open box which had a long wand tucked away inside.
Then Minerva just thought her mother had a stomach ache, or that she was poorly. Looking back, an older and wiser woman learnt that her mother was full of envy because her daughter had the chance to use her talent to its maximum potential.
“It’s sad though, my eldest daughter would never give me a son in law, or a grandchild. I always wanted my daughter to have children and have a proper life.” The old woman sighed, shaking her head as she took another drink.
“There’s still time...” Minerva whispered sorrowfully, looking at her mother who shook her head again.
"No that girl always puts work first, and it isn’t fair. She never stops to think of me, all my family’s here and she’s still at work running after bloody Albus Dumbledore.” Minerva couldn’t look at her mother anymore, so she slipped her hand into Isobel’s and murmured,
“I’m here mum.” Blinking back the tears, she managed to turn to face her mum who had a sweet and completely baffled look on her face.
“Oh, Minerva, hello love. Have you seen your father about? We were just saying how it’s good of you to get a job at Hogwarts so young! You must be so talented; brightest of the bunch!” She continued on,
“To Minerva and her new job!” She toasted, and then taking a final sip of her tea which she spat out and threw to the floor.
"This is cold! Who gave me this?! Who?! Take it away Malcolm, get it away from me.” Isobel spat, afraid of a lukewarm drink. She was slowly sliding into madness.
Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear
May be ever so near
“Thanks again, Albus. I will try to get her to a nursing home soon, though her magical behaviour is like a child’s. She can’t control it anymore. When you had Arianna, how did you help her?” She asked, afraid of an answer. Albus looked up from his desk and lit his room with the deluminator he had possessed for many years already,
“You smile Minerva. Act as if nothing is wrong, and forget all the sadness that is there, and think about them. You think about what they will see because they won’t understand why you’re upset and think it’s their fault. We know it isn’t, yet, how are they to know?” Albus advised the transfiguration teacher, who was still so young to be dealing with this suffering. No one should have to go through what they had to. He had told Minerva in confidence about his family, in hope it would help her understand that she is never alone and in some ways it did bring her comfort, yet in others she could only feel some trace of empathy for a man that had been through so much.
“I’ll see you in the morning I expect.” Minerva told him, as she didn’t anticipate him to wait for his employee to return once Robert had arrived to do what seemed an early morning shift. They had taken on this role as if it was a job no one wanted, but were forced to do it.
Minerva apparated outside the house that her mother resided in, and for many years Minerva had too. It used to be so beautiful, with flowers watered daily, and the grass mowed once a week. The woman looked at it now; the roses were wilted with petals simply dropping, one by one like the corners of her mother’s mind. The garden was dying, like Isobel, as if she was connected to the house. What did it matter, appearance was nothing anymore, just an old wives tale that if you believed was important, you were foolish.
Minerva pushed the door open and stepped inside to find the room almost pitch black with just a dim light surrounding the room, which appeared almost empty. Minerva stepped inside to find all the furniture thrown to one side of the room and Isobel in her night down, her hand shaking with the candle in hand.
“He doesn’t trust me Minerva. Why won’t he trust me? Is he scared? I’m scared. I don’t know what I’ll do next, what he’ll do next. Or what you’ll do. He’s frightened of you too, what you can achieve, he always has been. He feels like it’s his entire fault. Well...it’s mine. I should have said no, and married a wizard like Father told me to! WHY DIDN’T I LISTEN?!” She sobbed rocking herself back and forth, clumps of her hair slowly falling out. Minerva took the candle and put it next to her mother then pulling her into a hug,
“Shhhh, hush now. It will all be fine. It’s not your fault mum. It could never be your fault, I promise.” Minerva only spoke softly to her mother at times like this because of what Albus said. They didn’t know, and couldn’t remember the crimes they had committed, all the lying...Isobel didn’t understand and Minerva shouldn’t explain to her. She should just show that it’s in the past and everything will be fine.
That’s the time
You must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
It had been a month since the incident, and Isobel’s 52nd birthday would soon be upon them. Minerva was at the school, baking a cake for her mother because she recalled her favourite was a Victoria sponge cake. She did it all by hand, because when she spun all those lies for love, she baked and washed by hand so it was time Minerva learnt that things could be just as good, or better without magic. She was cooking in the Elves kitchen at Hogwarts, and carefully placed the cake in the oven for it to bake. Once the timer was set, she slumped herself against the kitchen unit and sighed,
“Merlin, that took a bit of work.” A small house elf came beside her and tugged at the old, ragged apron she was wearing.
“Excuse me mistress, but we could have done that for you. In fact, we could do the icing if you like?” Minerva looked down at the tiny, yet helpful creature that was offering to give assistance but Minerva wanted to be independent.
“No need, I’m doing this for my mother’s birthday and I want her to know that I tried, even if it’s just for a moment. You understand?” Minerva asked, hoping that a house elf wouldn’t find her intentions ridiculous.
“Yes mistress, it sounds as if you really care for your mother and I’m sure she loves you just as much.” The house elf then left the kitchen, returning to its quarters.
Once the cake was baked and iced Minerva delicately packed it in a box, to which it just fitted in size. She then carried it past students who were completely oblivious and placed it on her desk in her office where she would gleam at it with pride. Minerva the moved it to one side and began to mark fifth year practise papers for a theory on a patronus. As she felt in a rather forgiving mood, she looked over some of the simple mistakes and gave some students higher than what her stricter self would usually give.
Minerva looked up for a moment, to see a silvery dog come sloping through into her office, and jump upon her desk.
“Come quickly, it’s mother. She’s...gone.”
Minerva sank to the floor and took the position her mother had done when she was stricken by fear and magic. She rocked back and forth with tears streaming down her face. She opened the box with the cake she had baked her mother for her soon to come birthday and slammed it shut again. She couldn’t bear to look. Instead she grabbed her coat and disapparated as soon as she could to the house where she expected the rest of her family was.
They all stood around the bed where a frail looking woman with short, limp brown hair had her eyes clamped shut , as if playing a game and was ready to open them, with the excitement a child would have and scream boo! Minerva prayed she would. Her two brothers had their arms around Minerva, who turned to Robert and said,
“You did the patronus, really well. I can’t believe you remembered how.” She smiled sadly; proud that she had taught her little brother well.
“Mother is dead and you’re praising me? I don’tunderstand.” He confided in his sister with great confusion, but over her shoulder, Malcolm was giving him a warning look, which urged him to keep quiet.
“I don’t think she would want us to sit and mourn. I know, she’d want us to feel that she was free and bury her next to Dad, so that they can be near each other and finally trust one another. I’m going to take her wand, what I’ll do with it, I’m not sure but she hated the fact that it was always there just rotting away. I hope I can put it to use you know.”
The woman picked up the wand that was locked away in the box and using it she cast the sheet over her mother’s face to bring respect to her.
Perhaps now, she was at peace.
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile.
A/N - I was very determined to write this fic, as though it's nothing special, it means a lot to me. This song is something I recommend anyone listening to if you're feeling down because, the amount of times it has cheered me up is unreal. I hope that this hasn't upset anyone too much, and I especially hope some of you can take the time to review.