Title: A Teachable Moment
Summary: Laura Roslin never thought she'd live long enough to have a life on Earth. Minerva McGonagall never planned on becoming a teacher. Crossover with the Harry Potter-verse
Notes: There are all A/R tropes we know and love: the night on New Caprica; the reunion after the Exodus; when Laura tells Bill she has cancer again...we all have our own ideas and takes. This is an attempt at the rare "Laura doesn't actually die" story. A Save Laura! fic, if you will. Crossover with Harry Potter. I think Minerva and Laura would get on rather well. For leiascully, beta extraordanaire/teacher, and her noble comrades everywhere.
The African savanna appeared before her eyes at the same moment the sickening tug in her gut relented.
Head spinning as she suppressed a fading urge to vomit, Minerva McGonagall struggled to force her vision into focus.
Find a point in the distance to latch on to...hold that line of sight, she told herself.
After a few legless moments, the spinning resolved itself and she was able again to render details as her vision, and balance, steadied. Simplistic as the trick was, it remained Minerva's only tried and true method of managing the jarring jumps in space and time. For all her advanced magical ability, Minerva McGongall had never been able stomach Time Turning.
She bent a little at the waist, trying to catch her breath. Beside her, her mentor appeared unruffled. His glasses had the nerve to stay straight, barely a strand of red hair out of place on his head.
If she didn't adore Albus Dumbledore so much, she'd be in danger of cursing him into next week.
"Ah! Here we are."
They had Turned into a dense piece of forest. Thin, pale trees reached up to the sky, surrounded by high grasses and the sounds of animal life, birds calls.
Mostly what Minerva noticed was: It was hot.
She had felt irritable ever since Dumbledore had proposed this ludicrous field study. Research, he had called it, on the origins of magic.
In fact, a lot of things about her former teacher had vexed Minerva lately...though maybe it was more accurate to say a lot of things in general had vexed her lately.
She felt aimless, disconnected. She'd throw herself into one project, only to find another she felt would suit her more, be more valuable. Discarding the first, she'd jump into the second, only to be swayed in an altogether different direction weeks later. Flick, swish, repeat.
The three years she'd spent training to become an Animagus, the endless hours of focus, the Ministry exams, navigating bureaucracy - it had seemed so important at the time. And now it hardly seemed to matter. Being an Animagus didn't mean anything, apart from the fact that hers was the newest entry on a very short, very old list.
She couldn't protect people, like the Aurors , even though she'd had top marks in Defense Against the Dark Arts; wasn't a Healer, despite all her exceptional skills in Charms and Potions.
If Dumbledore had begun to sense her ennui, he gave no indication. But several days ago he had suggested Minerva take a break from her latest project on cross-species transfiguration to accompany him on his next bit of research.
"A foray into the unknown," he had mused, " to find the very beginnings of magic."
So, here she was. To look for the first wand, listen for an early incantation, catch the first spark of magical ability.
Minerva tugged at the collar of her robe with one slender finger, overly warm and uninspired.
The nausea at least was at bay now. As such, she righted herself, straightened her glasses with a smoothing hand to her robes, and followed Dumbldore through a break in the undergrowth where the grass had thinned. Slipping through the vegetation, she took stock of the landscape before her.
The objective had been to locate a region occupied by, what was thought to be, anyway, a group of the earliest magical humans. Evidence suggested they had lived somewhere in Eastern Africa roughly ten thousand years ago.
But instead of the proto-magical humans Dumbledore brought her to observe, Minerva found herself studying a wide, unblemished plain of low grasses that stretched out from horizon to horizon, peppered here and there with groups of metal spaceships.
Minerva looked pointedly at her former professor and mentor, who, at the moment, was inexplicably considering his writstwatch.
"Hmm," he mused, "It would appear I was a touch overzealous. We appear to be off by...oh, yes, quite an order of magnitude." Dumbledore said genially, not, apparently, very upset by his rare pronounced error.
"Prof...," Minerva began, before catching herself. It rather perturbed her that by now she still had not outgrown the habit of referring to every bloody superior as "Professor."
"Er...Dumbledore," she gestured, "there are...people," she said, frowning. "Like Muggles. But...I don't... they look like our Muggles. Except..." She didn't finish her thought, as another ship passed over them, circling the plain and landing near the others.
Dumbledore followed her gaze to the north, expression betraying nothing.
"Curious. So it would appear." He wore a look of intense concentration, studying the line of men and women moving out along the plain. "Yes...Muggles. And not."
Minerva frowned. Dumbledore, as per usual, seemed unsurprised by events, as though he were regarding the work of some troublesome students and not a shocking anomaly in human evolution.
They followed the treeline, moving to get a closer look at the mysterious Muggles. Mineva was eyeing them with suspicion, Dumbledore with interested amusement, when he startled her by lifting a hand, forcing her to a halt.
In their path was a strange sight.
Despite the heat, a woman lay huddled under a pile of blankets, propped upright against a fallen log. A simple shelter had been erected above her to deflect the midday sun. To Minerva's eyes, she looked tired and wan; defeated.
Beside her, Dumbledore hummed quietly to himself. "She is very ill." Dumbledore concluded, sutdying the thin, pale woman. He made a move to step into the clearing when Minerva caught the arm of his robe.
"Dumbledore," she whispered, scandalized. "What was the last thing you said before we Turned?
"You said: We're not supposed to interfere!"
Minerva could not, for the life of her, understand why she - who after all was supposed to be learning from had to be learning from his example - the one who needed to remind a tenured Professor of Transfiguration at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that there were Rules Meant To Be Followed. For all his genius, it was a lesson Dumbledore seemed incapable of learning.
Auburn hair catching in the sun, the older man's eyes twinkled behind the half-moon frames of his glasses. "So I did. And, let it be a perfect example of how, at times, we all must eat our own words, Minerva."
And with that he stepped into the clearing.
"Lovely day, isn't it?" Dumbledore called out. He meandered out of the undergrowth, looking about airily, hands clasped behind his back. His voice was cordial; cheerful and even, as if he were greeting an acquaintance during a stroll in the Hogwarts greenhouse on a rather warm day.
Hesitant - and fully annoyed, if she was plain about it - Minerva followed him.
Sunlight danced gently across the woman's face in freckling spots. A small patch of shade obscured the harshest of the sun's rays, though some wayward glimmers tumbled through the leafy canopy above. By the way the light fell, it almost restored some of the life to her ashen features.
Dumbledore was, as usual, correct. This woman, who or whatever she was, was not well. She looked like a Flitterblossom flower cut from the vine - withered and frail. Dark locks of hair fell across her face and against her bloodless skin looked it looked...wrong. A step from death's door.
Only the unknown woman's eyes remained vibrant, following each step her unfamiliar visitors took.
"Hello..." She struggled to speak; it took her several breaths to get the whole of the word out. "I didn't..." she paused, coughing, "I didn't know they'd begun grounding the Fleet."
Dumbledore beamed merrily at her."I haven't the foggiest idea, I'm afraid."
The woman smirked a little to herself, amused by something private. In looking inward, she closed her eyes, laid back her head. When she opened them again, she trained her gaze upon Minerva.
There was something familiar about this woman's searching expression. Instead of the twenty-four year-old-woman she was - Head Girl in her year, Animagus, assisting faculty member - Minerva found herself being appraised like an unruly First Year, which she certainly never had been.
"You are not well, my dear," Dumbledore observed.
The woman smiled calmly, as if addressing a very slow person, and said with false cheer, "No. In fact, I'm dying." Minerva had never known anyone to seem so...serene in the face of their imminent demise.
Dumbeldore nodded, taking a seat on the log she leaned against, close to her side. "So it would seem." He offered a hand to her, which she weakly accepted.
"Laura," the woman introduced herself as, then smirked again. "You're not Colonial, are you, Albus."
Minerva looked at her sharply. If the woman - Laura - was disturbed by the revelation, she gave nothing away. She merely continued to take deep, shaking breaths, studying them behind the frames of her squarish glasses.
"I am not Colonial, Laura, if that, in fact, is what you are."
Laura grinned, as much as she could muster, one corner of her mouth curling in placid amusement. "Not so long ago, that would have shocked me. Not much surprises me anymore."
Dumbledore hummed, seemingly amused by her. "It really is a fine day, isn't it?"
"It is," the woman Laura agreed.
"Your people seem to be enjoying it," he observed.
"It has been...a long time, very long...since we had a moment in the sun."
He thumbed his mustache idly, a posture, Minerva knew, that meant he was turning things over in his mind. He looked away, out over the savanna towards the ships, where groups of people were scrambling to unload crates and pieces of cargo.
Minerva watched the them as well, her mind whirling in confusion. Clearly these were Muggles: non-magical people. Yet they were also very clearly more advanced than the Muggles of her own era, back in 1930's England. She gazed across the long grass to see them better, though not so far as to be out of earshot of Dumbledore.
"Am I to take it, then," her mentor said after a long while, "That you are not from...here, Laura?"
Laura chuckled. "You would be correct to infer so, Professor." Minerva whirled around, her mouth opening in a small O of surprise.
Seeing Dumbledore's astonishment and mirth at having ascertained his profession, Laura explained. "I was a teacher too. I recognize the habits."
Albus let out a bark of delight. "And what did you teach, my dear?"
"Mathematics, mostly to younger students. Logic, sometimes, for high schoolers. So long ago...in another life, practically. It's all gone now." Laura made a sound in the back of her throat that sounded like joy and grief at once. "I almost can't believe we're here, despite the years I prayed to Athena for the strength to get our people here."
"Are...you're a queen?" Minerva asked, failing outright at hiding her incredulity.
Laura laughed brightly, a short burst of musical giggles that disintegrated into a wracking cough. The smile remained on her face. "Some people might say so. But really, I was just in the right place at the wrong time, and thrown into a duty a bit above my pay grade."
Minerva kneeled primly by her side as Laura took a breath and told them her story.
She told them about the Twelve Colonies, and the worlds in the system that once had been her home at the end of the Universe. She told them about Caprica, which sounded lovely, and about The Fall, which did not.
She told them about the Cylons, how a war with machines made of metal and bolts became a war against machines made of flesh and bone. She told them about humans full of hate and Cylons made to love, about numbers for names and artificial life everlasting.
She told them about a road in the stars revealed in a tomb, about the prophecies that made her believe but how, ultimately, her faith fell to the Fleet, to her people, and not the dusty words a thousand generations removed.
This has all happened before, Laura said. It will all happen again.
Minerva was horrified, and moved, and amazed. Though, mostly, she did not understand. It was beyond her ability to reconcile. Still, her mind reached unwillingly to the rumors gathering force back in the place and time they had come from...rumors of Inferi, of Unforgivable curses and fates worse than death. Maybe she understood a little.
But Laura also told them about bravery and hope and friendship and love; the life she found at the end of everything. About almost-sons and not-quite-daughters and family forged from the fire and ashes.
When she finished her tale, Laura Roslin, the once and final President of gone-away worlds, her voice had grown hoarser still. Albus sat by the log near her side, eyes trained across the savanna, silent as a stone.
"You do not strike me as a woman who fears death, Laura Roslin."
Her brows rose over her tired, drooping eyes. "You know, a wise, old philosopher from the Colonies once said, 'To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure," she quoted. Tipping her head the other way, Laura acknowledged, "But, then, he lived a quiet life, on a quiet mountain, far from the troubles we knew. At the end of it, he was ready for an adventure."
Laura sighed, her breath rattling, choked. It was painful to see the woman's frailty.
"I've had enough adventure. I think, given the choice, I'd prefer a few more quiet mornings. To walk in woods like these. Sit by a lake, read a few more books with Bill." She hummed, a sad, musical sound that made Minerva's stern spirit clench.
"I've been dying since the day we met. He made me live a little though." Laura watched the line of refugees moving across the plains. "I'm not afraid to die...not anymore, anyway...I think what I fear is what my death will mean for him."
The woman turned to her, "I'm sorry, I didn't even ask your name."
"Minerva," she replied, "Minerva McGonagall."
"Minerva...that's what they called the goddess Athena in Gemenese. In Saggitaron, too, I think. I remember their hymns to her." Laura's voice was small as she spoke, her mind clearly somewhere else, very far away.
"You are very calm for a woman faced with strangers from the future of a world you've only just discovered, Laura." Dumbledore observed.
"Hmm," she giggled a little. "Probably because I've hallucinated this entire conversation, Albus. I'm drugged out of my mind, you know."
Dumbledore nodded appreciatively, and smiled. "Ah, yes. Naturally. Well, as a specter of your wildest imagination, Queen Laura, will you allow me to indulge a flight of fancy from the depths of your unconscious?"
"By all means," Laura replied, smiling in a way that said do whatever you like, since you're not real, of course.
Albus pulled her to the side of the clearing.
"What are you doing?" Minerva demanded.
"Would the kinder thing be to let her die, Minerva?"
"For Merlin's sake, Dumbledore," she hissed. "It's in the rules! If the Ministry found out-"
"But they won't find out," he said definitively. "Will they?" Minerva gave him a sharp, but conciliatory look. "What would they think?" He reasoned, affecting that irritatingly calm voice of reason. " It's difficult enough for the Ministry to deal with Muggles as they are, let alone the thought of Muggle ancestors far more technologically advanced than those we know. I would suggest not trouble them, for the time being."
"So, what then? You're just going to Vanish her sickness? Just like that?"
He shook his head. "Not me, Minerva. You."
She recoiled, warily. "Me? Why?"
He glanced back towards Laura, and when he spoke his voice was low and grave. "For too many troubling reasons to count, Minerva, I fear that there are very dark times ahead. War, maybe. And soon."
He turned and looked her in the eye, all traces of merriment gone from his expression. "I believe that darkness will descend whether this woman dies or not. In fact, I am sure of it," he ventured. "There is evil in this world, in this Universe, perhaps, that does not stop for love or kindness, both of which are in our power to preserve at this moment, Minerva."
Dumbledore blinked and appraised her honestly. "I also feel there is much this woman could teach you which I simply cannot. You are at a crossroads, Minerva, and there are choices before you that it is beyond either my ability to guide your through."
Minerva scoffed. She looked from Laura to him. Dumbledore nodded his conviction. Merlin's beard...
"Oh, alright," she huffed, ungratefully accepting his point of view. Compassion had never been her greatest gift. But Dumbledore?"
"Next time get a Ravenclaw to help with your 'field research.'" Minerva said, glowering up at him with a half-hearted irritation. But she retrieved her wand, nonetheless.
"You remember the spell?" She nodded her assent, and Dumbledore turned back to face Laura.
"Where were we?"
"I believe you were about to say the magic words?" Laura said with some difficulty, though still managing to sound wry and amused.
Dumbledore smiled and stooped by her side to help her onto her feet. "Of course."
She was, of course, imagining all this.
It was a pleasant fantasy, this nice stranger and young woman, but she did not pretend that this was something other than a vivid internal figment, the last blind gropes of her failing psyche.
The grim young woman, in so many ways, reminded her of Billy. Doting and disapproving of her superior, with eyes that missed nothing, named for the Pantheon Goddess whose tomb lead them through the stars. Whole layers of her mind were flattening, converging into one clouded reality as brain and body burned up the last of her chemically-sustained life.
She hoped Bill would be back soon. The pain in her chest was sharp, her breathing shallow. It wouldn't be long, but she wanted him by her side at the end. There would be a little peace for both of them in that.
Her apparitions returned, and the kind-eyed man - a rendition of her father, maybe? Though her father had never worn a beard or had funny half-circle glasses - whispered something she didn't catch, and helped her to her feet, which Laura found was actually much easier to do than she expected.
The young woman could be an amalgam of Billy and Tory - black hair, sober, serious expression. She tried to remember them both in their best light.
But neither Tory or Billy had ever spoken words in the strange language that the young woman was now speaking, as she raised the long, slender stick in her hands and mumbled a long series of syllables Laura could not make out.
The sunlight seemed to fracture and something sharp and diffuse at once seemed to hit her dead on.
She couldn't breath, couldn't move at all for one long, frozen moment. Just as a note of panic began to rise, her lungs expanded and warm, tickling sensation bubbled through her, leaving Laura dizzy and reeling as she gasped for air. But the spinning was too much, her oxygen too low on her long-sick body.
Everything went dark.
Not for the first time, it struck Minerva as completely incongruous the way magic worked between Muggles and Wizards. A single spell could save a Muggle's life, yet would have done little more than heal a scratch on a magical person.
"How will we know its worked?" She ventured. It wasn't like they would be sticking around for days on end to measure the observed effects of her spell.
But already the color had come back into Laura's features. Her skin was flushed, warm to the touch rather than freezing, and her chest rose and fell deeply. Dumbledore tapped her neck and touched her wrist. He swept aside the dark hair that had slipped sideways, revealing itself as wig.
"I think...yes," he mused, and with a flick of his wand uttered, "Capelli cresci."
Bright auburn curls sprouted from the woman's crown, tumbling into a shining pool around her head.
A snap! came from somewhere not far off, and with a final touch, Dumbledore ushered them away, back through the undergrowth and out of sight.
"Was that really necessary Dumbledore?' Minera questioned when they were obscured to his satisfaction.
Laura had come to, sitting up and running a hand through her long red hair. She laughed loudly, that tinkling sound of merriment again. Years fell away from her without the heavy black wig and features tight with pain.
An older man appeared from the far edge of the wood. He was strong to judge by the pile of logs in his hands, though his shoulders were hunched with unseen burdens. He had rounded the small rise but stopped short in his tracks as he caught sight of the laughing, healthy woman in the clearing. He discarded the pile of wood in his arms, as she stood quickly, flushed and energized, and wasted no time in sweeping her into his arms.
"My dear Minerva, you are ten kinds of brilliant and have a magical aptitude that, if you'll permit an immodest truth, often reminds me of my own ability." Minerva preened ever so slightly. "But you have much to learn about people. About love."
Minerva glanced at the happy, laughing couple.
For once, she felt very glad to have broken The Rules.
When Laura woke, instinctively sitting up, shaking her head, and noticed two things.
First, that she felt completely fine. Wonderful, even. No pain, no thready pulse, no shortness of breath, no soul-killing exhaustion.
And second, that there was a twig and leaves stuck in her hair.
She gasped in wonder, in sheer frakking joy at the hair - her hair! - upon her head. The giggles tore through her, singing out riotously. It was a dream...had to be a dream...
But no, because there was Bill, ascending the rise to the little shelter he had made for her, and beyond him the Raptors and ground transports that had landed to plan the settlement. When he laid eyes on her, he froze, and the grin that crossed his face, her heart stopped a little.
No, not stopped, because here she was, alive and good, with more life in her to live yet. On Earth, with Bill, who had caught her up in his arms, holding her so tight that if whatever power it was had missed a cell of cancer, then surely he was crushing it to bits now.
Not stopped - her heart skipped, her heart danced.
Bill's hands tangled in her long, gloriously restored hair. A thrill shot down her body at the sensation, reminding her of all the other promising ways there were to enjoy this second, or third, or whatever chance this was. Like a Cylon, she had been resurrected, Laura thought, feeling that maybe she understood them better in that single moment than in all her life before.
"I haven't the faintest idea," Laura laughed, releasing him from her embrace.
She shook her head, still grinning at her complete and utter loss for explanation. "Magic."
Two months later, Laura is attempting to weed the garden behind the small structure that is taking shape on their hill when a faint pop! interrupts her chore.
Her eyes widen a little as she catches sight of Minerva, surely remembering her as the stern young woman who had saved her life. "I'm not sure if this is an indicator I'm losing my mind, or the evidence that disproves it."
Her red hair is unkempt, running over its binding and spilling around her head. She looks tired, unused to such intense outdoor labor maybe, but not unhappy. Not unhappy at all. In fact, this woman, this Laura, whose life she'd saved for her mentor's whimsy, bears yet another look of disconcerting familiarity. Minerva finally places it.
Red hair, wry, slightly irritating all-knowing expression...
Were it not for the fact that they'd been born on different planets an, oh, a hundred-thousand years or so apart, Minerva might have strongly suspected Laura Roslin and Albus Dumbledore were siblings.
Unlike the first time she visited, Minerva is here of her own will, and not for the last time, which will come, many, many years later when they are both very old, with matching wrinkles and silver hair, with Laura rocking Hera's youngest child in her arms. The Admiral will be gone by then, and Dumbledore, too, but Laura will still laugh, that last time, because Laura has never stopped laughing since she lived to see Earth and because Minerva has caught up to her by then. In fact, Minerva will have surpassed her in age at that point, and nearly by twofold, though she will counter that Laura will always be much older than she is, thank you very much.
But now she is still a young woman, equipped with skills and intelligence she does not know how best to put to use. And many, many questions.
"Things are happening...where I come from," Minerva says. "I need to know...how did you do it? How did you stand it when people were dying or missing? Neighbors accusing neighbors of secretly being enemies?"
Laura gives her the long, appraising look that makes Minerva feel twelve again, like the older woman is waiting for something to reveal itself that will inform her decision, whatever it may be.
Laura smirks. She holds out her hand, taking Minerva by the wrist, and muses "How did I do it..."
She draws out the phrase out, searching for the words to her explanation. "Well, I think I told you, before I was President, I was a teacher..."