FIELDS OF GOLD
On her seventeenth birthday, Minerva McGonagall looked her mirrored self square in the eye, took a pair of scissors, cut off her long plaits and decided to become an Auror.
"You look like a man."
Minerva scowled and turned her head a little to the side, making the abandoned tresses on the floor disappear with a small flick of her wand.
"Shut up, Rolanda."
Rolanda Hooch grinned. She was, in fact, the last person to say anything at all about haircuts, Minerva thought, considering she most likely had not had one since she was six years old – Lord knew how she even played Quidditch with that on her head.
The two witches – the Head Girl and the Quidditch champion – were due to graduate Hogwarts the next week, and although Rolanda had long declared her wishes to try out for the national team – a feat she would no doubt achieve – Minerva had never discussed her own ambitions with anyone.
They had, truth be told, not been her ambitions for a long time: but times were tough and this was 1942, and she had to go.
"I'm going to train to be an Auror."
Rolanda's silver eyebrows shot up.
"Dangerous games, McGonagall! You're sure?"
Minerva nodded, combing what remained of her thick, black hair to one side, then the other. Although she would never admit it to Rolanda, she was not without vanity.
"It looks better with a side parting."
Rolanda casually waved her wand.
"Like so. You may be the brilliant scholar, Minerva, but I've always had a knack for the fashionable."
Her hair fixed to satisfaction, Minerva sat down on the bed beside her friend. Rolanda's yellow eyes – the result, as she fondly recalled, of exactly such a fashionable spell gone wrong – looked at her searchingly, and she felt the blood rush to her face.
Rolanda's blood was pure, which perhaps in a way contributed to the carelessness with which she had always approached life, but Minerva's father was a Muggle. The idea of war was not as alien to her as it was to her friend or many others.
"I have an aunt who lost a husband and two children in London last year, to Nazi bombing. I thought of joining the army - "
"The Muggle army?"
Minerva almost smiled at the horror in Rolanda's eyes. Once again, like many purebloods, Minerva knew that Quidditch champion or no, her friend found the concept of Muggle organization and technology an entirely alien and slightly scary one.
"Yes. They're not helpless, you know. But Mama said, and I agree with her, that with these rumours of Gellert Grindelwald, I may better serve as an Auror. They have abbreviated the training to two years instead of three and with a bit of luck and the right recommendations, I may be in the field even before then."
Rolanda pensively popped a chocolate frog into her mouth and took a brief glance at the glossy card that came with it. She snorted and threw it at Minerva.
"Catch! Here's a good sign!"
One of the problems with Ro was, Minerva pondered, that she imagined everyone's reflexes to be as good as her own. The tiny, bearded wizard on the card waved his hands wildly as he headed toward the floor – still Minerva, who had been a decent Chaser until her Head Girl duties had interfered with her Quidditch schedule, managed to catch it just before it hit the floor. A tiny, familiar face gazed up at her, and she smiled.
"Godric Gryffindor. Let's hope so."
Stealing a chocolate frog from Rolanda, she sat back against the cushions and waved her wand, removing the last of the family pictures and Quidditch posters from her bedroom walls. The room looked bare, but that was only right: soon it would no longer be her own, and another girl, a year younger, would be Hogwarts' Head Girl.
Suddenly, even Rolanda looked a little sad.
"It's serious now, isn't it?"
"I'm afraid so."
"Have you told Tom?"
Minerva shook her head and bit her bottom lip. Of all the people she had to tell of her future plans, perhaps Tom would be the hardest.
"I have not."