October 10, 1997
Heels clicked against the cold stone. Students who were unlucky enough to be in the hallway rushed to move out of her way. For a woman who easily scared her students on a normal day, the look Minerva McGonagall was wearing could easily kill someone. Jaw clenched, lips thin, and hands balled into fists, she swept through the corridors of Hogwarts in a fury. She had been working at this school for over forty years and she would be damned if she was going to watch her students be tortured.
When she got to the entrance to the Headmaster's office, she had to slow her pace. It finally struck her that she had no idea what the password to the traitor's office was. Barely concealing a scream of frustration, she glared down at the gargoyle guarding the room. "Oh, for Merlin's sake, you know who I am! Let me in!"
The gargoyle stared back unblinking. Minerva let out a low hiss. Students who had ventured near her jumped back as she drew her wand. Before she could decide what curse to use, a deep voice came from behind her.
"You wouldn't be trying to break into my office, now would you?" To his credit, Severus Snape did not flinch at the glare worn by his colleague. Her wand went back into her robes, but her threatening stance did not falter.
Without hesitation, Minerva snapped back, "We need to speak. Now."
Snape approached the gargoyle, who opened upon the presence of the Headmaster. A few choice words ran through her mind as she passed the stone statue, but the majority of her anger had another target. Oh, she knew the fine line she was walking, but she could not stand idly by while Hogwarts suffered.
Once in the office, she waited until he took his seat behind the Headmaster's desk. Her green eyes stared relentlessly at Snape as he settled himself in Albus' chair. "What can I help you with, Professor McGonagall?"
"Since when has detention at this school reverted back to the dark ages?" Minerva got straight to the point.
"I am not in charge of disciplinary action, if you have a problem, you should take it up with Professor or Madame Carrow."
"I am taking it up with you!" How could he sit across from her like nothing was happening? Minerva felt her heartrate increase as they stared at each other. He was so calm; maybe too calm. But Potter had said he was calm that night he had murdered Albus.
When Potter had told them what had transpired in that tower, her immediate thought had been that the poor boy had finally lost his mind. Even standing over Albus' body she hadn't thought it possible for Severus to betray them. Over the years, despite their differences, they had developed a friendship of sorts. Losing Albus felt like losing a limb; but knowing it was at Severus' hand made it feel like she was bleeding out.
Even if they had different approaches to teaching, she wouldn't have ever believed he would ever harm a student. Terrorize, perhaps, but to sit idly by while physical harm befell them…
"This has to stop! They are going to cause irreparable damage…Severus, these are children! Most of them are underage." It was in that moment that Minerva realized she wasn't above begging. Not even to him.
Minerva silently berated herself for slipping up and calling him by his given name. Ever since he had returned to Hogwarts, they had strictly been Professor McGonagall and Professor Snape. This was something that hadn't happened since his first year teaching. If Snape noticed her slip, he didn't acknowledge it. "I have confidence that matters are being handled in the appropriate manner."
"Appropriate manner?!" she exclaimed while throwing her hands up. "They are using Unforgivable Curses on first years!"
"The Ministry no longer views-"
She interrupted him with a bitter laugh. "I'm aware of the current state of the Ministry."
"I didn't think you were particularly inclined to them before." His eyes traced over her chest were the stunners had left their mark not two years before. For a second, she saw a flash of the man she knew before, merely making a friendly quip. But Minerva had learned the hard way that no one should ever let their guard down around Snape.
"The rest of the staff will not stand for-"
This time it was Snape hat interrupted her. "You will. You will do whatever I say. I am the Headmaster now and the Carrows outrank you whether you approve or not."
"Or what?" Minerva snapped back, her eyes flashing dangerously. "You'll kill me like you killed Albus?"
The room was silent except for both of their short breaths. Even the portraits seemed frozen at her words. If her comment shocked him, Snape didn't show it visibly. But Minerva had worked with Snape for sixteen years and taught him for the seven years of his youth. She had rattled something inside him; if she didn't know better, she would have thought her accusation had hurt him.
Minerva stood still and wondered if she had pushed it too far. Would he let her draw her wand or just kill her right here? She had been itching for a fight for months and wondered if they were as evenly matched as she thought. A long minute dragged by and Snape's jaw tensed ever so slightly before he spoke.
"If he wanted you dead, don't you think you would already have been taken care of?" His voice was so low that it sent a chill up her spine. He slowly stood from the Headmasters chair and crept out from behind the desk. "Now, I'm going to give you the opportunity to walk back out the door and we can forget this conversation ever happened. Because I don't think the students will like your replacement."
He was steps away from her now and his words were slowly sinking in. It was something Minerva had always known in the back of her mind. If she wasn't here, who would be looking after her students? If Voldemort came for her, who would protect them? Her heart beat rapidly as they stared at each other. What Death Eater would take her place if she died today? This was one battle; she had a war to fight.
Minerva took a step back. Her voice was coarse when she tried to steady it. "If that's all, Headmaster?"
Snape nodded and turned his back to her. Glancing past him, she saw Albus sleeping in his portrait and she felt betrayed all over again.
February 27, 1998
A wave of her hand turned off the radio. Minerva slowly lowered her head into her hands, fingers threading through her hair. Too many names tonight. Well, there were too many names every night. It cut her to recognize so many of them, but it didn't hurt any less for the names she didn't know. Innocent people were dying and just because she didn't know them personally, didn't mean their lives weren't worth saving.
Kingsley Shacklebolt had been the one to inform her of Potterwatch. It was rather an ingenious idea. Now that half the Order was in hiding, it was hard to conduct meetings. Not to mention it would be nearly impossible to leave Hogwarts to meet with anyone. She knew Kingsley had told her about it to make her feel in the know. He was a good man. And one voice she desperately hoped to hear every time she turned on the radio.
Other members of the staff were listening in as well. She thought a few students probably were too, being as it was their friends running the program. All of this was done in secret. Anything else was too dangerous. It was hard enough for the Professors to even gather in the Staff Room for tea anymore, let alone listen to contraband material over a radio.
Nowadays, Minerva wasn't just listening for news of Harry Potter or the war or to check in on old acquaintances. So many of her students had disappeared and she had no idea where they had gone. But there had been no word from Potterwatch about her missing students. Well, there were those who had graduated, such as the host Lee Jordan, and a few that had been unable to make it back to Hogwarts due to their 'blood-status'. Dean Thomas came to mind.
But there was no news about her missing children. Not children, she guessed. No, they were much more than that now. They had been forced to grow up far before their time. There had been four Gryffindors, two Ravenclaws, and a Hufflepuff that had disappeared in the last two weeks alone. It raised her hopes to know that Snape and the Carrows were searching for them, which meant they weren't responsible.
She knew she should be trying to get some sleep, but as was most nights since the semester started, sleep was eluding her. Pin by pin, she let her hair down and slowly begin braiding it. She stared out the window to look out over the lake. It was so quiet; the silence was slowly seeping into her soul. Grabbing a book, she settled into the overstuffed chair next to the smoldering fire.
BANG. BANG. BANG.
Minerva woke with a start and the book slid off her lap and onto the floor. She must have dozed off while reading. She summoned her dressing gown and quickly pulled it on. During a normal school year, it wasn't unheard of for students to fetch her in the middle of the night for some nightmare or trouble. Occasionally, another professor would bring a student who had been out of bed for punishment. But this year, the students didn't dare exit their common rooms past curfew, or at least, they were extremely careful not to get caught.
"Get up, woman! What's taking so long?!" shouted a male voice from the hallway. Minerva groaned. Only the Carrows would wake her at this hour in such a rash manner. And they sounded angry. These days it seemed they were always angry, except of course when they were happy. And a happy Carrow never meant good for anyone else.
"Do you have any idea what time it is?" she barked as she wrenched the door open.
Amycus shoved past her into her sitting room with his sister hot on his heels. The handful of Slytherin students that trailed behind them seemed less sure that they wanted to enter a Professor's personal quarters at this hour of the night. In fact, she highly doubted any of them had been to her rooms; any time she dealt with students outside of her own house, it was in her office or classroom.
"Where is he?" growled Alecto after glancing around the darkened room. The fireplace was only embers now. Amycus had the sense to light his wand as he thumped around.
"Where is who?" asked Minerva, trying to keep up with their problem. She eyed the students in the hallway again. Draco Malfoy and his two buffoons were hovering with Blaise Zabini and Pansy Parkinson. She knew they were part of the group that the Carrows had put together to help enforce the new rules. Not unlike Dolores Umbridge's Inquisitorial Squad.
Amycus seemed unsatisfied by his search of the room when he turned around and answered, "That Longbottom boy. He's in your house! You must be hiding him!"
Minerva tried to hide the panic that threatened to overtake her at his words. What had Neville done now? Obviously, they weren't torturing him, or they wouldn't be here asking her for his whereabouts. Steadying herself, she said, "I can promise you that I'm the only person who has been here tonight. I don't keep a habit of storing children in my bedroom."
Alecto's eyes flickered towards her bedchamber door and Minerva let out an exasperated sigh. She took out her wand and the lights of her sitting room flickered on. Another wave and her bedroom door unlocked. "Go on. The faster you get this over with, the faster I can get back to sleep."
When the siblings moved from her sitting room to bedchamber, Crabbe made a movement as if to follow. Minerva stuck out her arm to stop him, commenting with a raised eyebrow, "I don't think so."
If any of the students were about to challenge her authority about entering the room where she slept, it didn't matter because the Carrows had made short work of the search. Minerva crossed her arms and glared at them as they pushed their way back into the hallway.
"You're going to let us into the Gryffindor Common Room!" Amycus ordered.
Minerva looked back at him blankly. "You decided to search my rooms before you searched the Common Room? How do you know he's even missing? He could be in bed!"
"We know he's not in bed because he never went back to the Gryffindor Tower after he served his detention," snarled Alecto. Minerva supposed they were having the area watched. "But one of his little mates may be able to tell us where he is! He's gone too far this time!"
Thinking quickly, Minerva tried to buy Neville more time to get somewhere safe. Hopefully, the boy was smarter than to go back to the Common Room, but she didn't want to chance running into him in the hallways either. She wasn't sure exactly what he had done, but she had a feeling that Neville didn't want to answer for it this time. "Do you mind if I put on some proper clothes first?"
"I don't intend on parading throughout the castle on this wild goose chase in my nightclothes." Every second she could give Neville was a chance that she wouldn't have to watch the Carrows torture him; she wasn't sure lately that they weren't bent on giving him the same fate as his parents.
"Get going, woman!" Amycus pointed his wand at her and motioned for her to start walking.
They reached the Gryffindor Tower faster than she would have liked, but there was nothing she could do to help it. Two fifth year Slytherins stood outside the portrait of the Fat Lady, obviously the watch team. Minerva stood silently at the back of the group until Alecto turned to her with a glare.
"Open the damned door! Give her the password!"
Feigning bewilderment, Minerva answered, "Oh, is that why you dragged me along? Couldn't you have gotten the password from the Headmaster?"
Ah, so they had not told Snape yet. Whatever Neville had done, the Carrows wanted to take care of it before involving him. She almost smiled at the thought. Weaving her way to stand directly in front of the portrait, she nodded at the Fat Lady who returned a nervous smile.
"What can I do for you, Professor?" came her meek voice. "You'll need the password to enter the Common Room."
"Yeah, yeah, go on!" shouted Amycus.
Minerva turned around and glanced at the Slytherin students. "I will give the password, but students are not permitted to enter a Common Room that is not their own and I will insist that your entourage wait outside."
Alecto did not like this answer. "We're in charge here. We'll say what the rules are!"
"Well, seeing as only I know the password. Either you agree to my terms or you can go wake the Headmaster."
"Fine! Fine! Just open the bloody door!" Aymcus shushed his sister's complaints to the side.
Minerva nodded and said, "Niffler."
The portrait swung open to an empty common room. It appeared all of her students were in their beds. Although if she had to guess by the coals in the fireplace, there had been plenty of activity before Amycus' shouting outside had started. The Carrows split up, Amycus taking the boys dormitory and Alecto the girls.
Soon, Minerva was joined by various students of her house, having been forced out of bed by the search. A couple of first years simply adjusted their blankets to find a soft spot on the floor. The rest sat around on the chairs and couches. No one spoke. It was too dangerous.
After an hour, Amycus and Alecto were huffing and yelling at the Gryffindor students, but Neville Longbottom was nowhere to be found. Their search seemed to have worn them out, so to Minerva's relief, they weren't handing out any retributory detentions or curses. Eventually, the students were allowed to go back into their dorms.
As the Carrows exited the portrait back into the hallway, Minerva turned to see Seamus Finnigan giving her a thumbs up from the stairwell. A small smile crept on to her face. Wherever Neville was, he was safe.
May 1, 1998
"Potter, aren't you supposed to be looking for something?" The young man was staring around the Great Hall as if he were a bit lost. Not quite the same attitude he had in the Ravenclaw Tower earlier in the evening.
"What? Oh…oh yeah!"
"Then go, Potter, go!"
Minerva shooed him away to whatever secret mission he was on. As curious as she was, they didn't have time to argue about whether or not she should be included in whatever task Albus had given the poor boy. Kingsley was giving out orders and she needed to help. He was a capable leader; more than capable to be honest, but he only knew the other members of the Order of the Phoenix. They were going to need to sort through the students that had remained behind. The majority of the staff was assembled behind Kingsley, sifting through their students both present and past.
Seamus Finnigan met her at the base of the steps with Dean Thomas and Lavender Brown directly behind him. "Where'd'ya want us, Professor?"
She wanted them safe in their beds; she wanted them anywhere but here. Voldemort's cold voice kept burning her ears. Minerva looked over the three of them and then to the rest of Dumbledore's Army that was gathering behind them, looking for their orders. Kingsley and the other members of the Order had divided themselves up, but they were waiting for her now, just like her staff. Minerva felt like a General, assigning her troops where to die.
But this was a war and it would end tonight, one way or another. Clearing her throat, she found within herself the rage and confidence she had earlier when she had banished Snape from the castle. "Mr. Finnigan and Mr. Thomas, assuming that I will be unable to separate the two of you, please find some way of bringing down the bridge over the ravine. That will be one less area we have to worry about."
Both boys stared at her. "You want us to what?"
"Blow it up." Leaving the two gleefully at the steps, she motioned for Miss Brown to follow her. "Find the Patil sisters and Professor Trelawney. See what you can do from the Divination Tower. I'm sure she has plenty of heavy objects. Filius you'll need some help targeting from a great distance. Who do you want with you?"
Minerva looked down to the elder Professor who had already spent most of the night setting protections around the perimeter. "Miss Chang, Mr. Corner, and Miss Vane, if you will follow me. I believe your accuracy will be of use in the Ravenclaw tower."
"Anyone who got an O or E in their Herbology O.W.L.'s will follow Professor Sprout to the greenhouses to gather anything useful. I don't want anyone getting accidently hurt before this begins." Minerva put her hands on her hips and glanced over the others. "Rolonda, get to the Quidditch Pitch and gets some brooms. Leave the bludgers, we can't risk any of our own getting hit. Anyone who has any proficiency on a broom, follow her. Except Misters Weasley, we need those passageways closed."
The twins saluted her and grabbed their older brother, Percy, who quite frankly Minerva was surprised to see. Kingsley nodded and took over from here. "The rest of you, divide up between myself, Arthur, Remus, and Professor McGonagall. We don't have very long to get into position. We'll need runners to relay information, so each group elect someone."
As the students, or young adults as they really were, began dividing themselves up, Minerva turned to the rest of her staff. "Poppy, I believe you'll find Molly excellent help to organize triage. We will need somewhere to bring the wounded. Aurora, help them. I'll need the rest of you with Kingsley, Arthur, and Remus. We need steady wands on the ground."
"We'll go wherever you need us," replied Septima, who patted her arm affectionately.
Minerva's voice caught in her throat when she tried to reply, but the others didn't seem to mind. Pomona shuffled over and gave her a quick kiss to the cheek. "I'll see you on the other side."
As the groups broke off, Minerva turned to her charges. Susan Bones looked more like her aunt as the days went by. She had no idea where Penelope Clearwater or Roger Davies had come from, but both were more than capable and she was happy to have them. The remainder of the group were the few sixth year Gryffindors who were of age. She had sent all of her seventh years on their own missions.
Together they made their way to the Gryffindor Tower to assume their positions before midnight. They rushed past the last of the underage students going into the Room of Requirement and Minerva was surprised when Horace's voice called out. He had been helping Argus usher the students to safety.
Her recent threat must have been on Horace's mind because he seemed more timid than usual. Behind him were four seventh year Slytherins. "Minerva, I have some fighters for you."
Minerva looked them once over. All four were half bloods of lesser Wizarding families and all four were clutching their wands. She had taught them for seven years and all four were just as talented as anyone else in her small team. Her eyes trained back on Horace. He seemed to be silently pleading with her to take this offering from his wayward house.
"Come with me," she answered, dismissing the sounds of protest behind her. Minerva had a war to fight; she didn't have time for petty house grievances. If they wanted to fight, then let them fight. They needed all the wands they could get.
They hurried onward to the tower and when they made it to the Fat Lady's portrait. The poor woman was scared as were several portraits surrounding her. "Oh, Professor, we all heard him. That evil man!"
"Yes, which is why we need to get in quickly," answered Minerva, in no hurry to make idle conversation.
The portrait swung open and the group made their way into the common room. They spread out into the dormitories and took positions in the windows. Fear gripped her chest as she looked out onto the grounds. Hogwartians were moving within the boundaries of the castle, but beyond the lake she could see the glow of another group gathering.
"Professor…" Minerva looked to her left to find Mervin Bells, one of the Slytherins, staring out into the darkness. He swallowed before looking at her directly. "There are more of us…there would have been more of us to fight if more were over seventeen. A lot of the young kids, they want to fight too. The Slytherins, I mean."
"Mr. Bells, there's no need to explain yourself. Or anyone else. You're here now and all I ask of you is to watch my back," she replied softly. If there was one thing she had learned over the years, it was that no one should be help responsible for the actions of members of their own house.
The clocktower rang out loudly and she took a deep breath. Midnight. This was it. This was the moment to fight. How long had they been building to this point? This is the moment they had been waiting for. Minerva was finally getting to raise her wand against the evil that had penetrated her life. Tonight would define the world as they knew it. Her Gryffindors were scattered throughout Hogwarts, bravely facing death beside the members of every other house.
Someday, Minerva would repair the school she called her home. Someday she would be able to mourn all that had been lost over the years and those they would lose tonight. She knew her daring Gryffindors were more than willing to give their lives tonight and the thought crossed her mind that she may not see the morning either. And she would die a hundred times over if it kept Lord Voldemort from taking another innocent life. She would have time to rest when all of this is over.
So, Minerva McGonagall raised her wand for the longest night of her life. Now was the time to fight.