Something Worth Living For
A/N: I had this one-shot partially written months ago. Then I came across a challenge by Singularity and decided to give it a try. So, I finished this one. I hope this is what you wanted. Here is my lesson learned in Harry Potter. Of course, Minerva is the main focus. And since my two personal favorite people to play opposite of her are out of the question as this story takes place at the end of HBP (they being Albus and Severus), I have chosen Alastor Moody for her to have this lovely talk with.
A man limped up the stairs of the Astronomy Tower. He was not searching for anything in particular. Perhaps answers or closure. He had no idea what had led him to this spot, considering the heinous crime that had just been committed here hours before. However, when he saw the tall figure of a slender woman hunched over the stone railing, he felt himself more at ease than he had since he had received word of Albus Dumbledore's death.
"Staring aimlessly over the edge won't bring him back. Just makes you look suicidal." He stood far enough away to miss her small smile, but his words drew her from her seclusion and she straightened her back.
"I'm trying to picture it." Clasping her hands behind her back, Minerva McGonagall turned her face to the sky, letting the glow of the moon shine on her pale face. "How did this happen?"
"You want the facts?"
"No." Neither moved as Minerva closed her eyes and breathed deeply. After giving her a moment, Alastor Moody limped slowly forward until he was directly behind her.
"You can cry, you know. I promise, even you are capable."
"I trusted him. I respect him. We were friends, Alastor." It came as a sniff first. Then, she shut her eyes and sunk to her knees. Her right hand clutched the stone of the railing tightly, as if clinging to the only thing that could bring Albus Dumbledore back to life. The other hand was wrapped tightly on her robes. Tears slipped pass her defenses finally. "Severus, why? Of all people, why Severus? We saved you…" The wetness slipping down her face was no comfort to her.
"Once a Death Eater, always a Death Eater," replied Alastor roughly, carefully watching her reaction. Even through her anguish she still managed to fix him with a mighty glare which only caused him to chuckle lightly and berate, "Even after everything that happened, you still believe people can change?"
"If I don't, I have nothing left to believe in."
Reaching a gnarled hand down, he pulled her gently to her feet. The cane hovered in midair as he checked her waist with his other hand in order to steady her as she swayed. He had to quickly grab the walking stick though as she leaned into his shoulder. Placing an ever so small kiss to her temple, he dried her tears with his sleeve.
"We're getting too old for this." Minerva's words caused them both to laugh richly. Blinking rapidly, she turned back to the view from the balcony.
"Not too old, I hope. We still have much to do."
"This will be our third war. What is the expression? Third time is the charm? Charm for what exactly?"
"Death finally finding us?" rasped Alastor. Another silent moment passed as Minerva contemplated his words. Finally, she let out another long sigh and slipped her arm through his, squeezing his forearm gently.
"Death would be a welcomed blessing for the two of us. We have lived our lives, but we know too well this is not the case."
"The good die young." This time a real smile graced Minerva's lips.
"And what exactly does that make us?"
"Lucky." She scoffed at his reply, but could hardly contain an air of seriousness.
"Where do we go from here, Alastor? I do not believe I can do this…" Silence followed her words, and the two stood side by side staring over the battlements at the night. All four eyes, even the old Auror's magical one, stared off into the night sky.
The stars seemed to be taunting them. So old, yet so bright. The stars could shine for millennia and never burn out. They outshined the young ones, proving that things did get better with age. Yet ,for the elder witch and wizard, the years brought pain and unease. Their youth was far behind them, but death seemed so far away.
"We live, Minerva. We live." Alastor could feel his joints aching from standing with for so long. He did not need a mirror to see the scars that lined his wrinkled face. Her hair was graying and she was not as quick as she had been in the past. Fate had it that they kept their minds. Both were as sharp and witty as they had been fifty years ago, but alas, they held with them the terrors and horrors of the wars they had fought and the friends and family they had lost. "To be honest, we are rather good at it."
"And what does life have left for two old fools such as us?" Minerva was staring down at the spot where Albus Dumbledore had fallen when Severus Snape had murdered him. He thought for a moment, and then turned away from the open space. Her arm was still hooked into his and she protested at the sudden movement.
"What-?" He hushed her and gimped to the stairs, she still by his side. "Alastor, where are you-"
"Be quiet woman and I'll show you." Grudgingly, Minerva pursed her lips and continued to walk silently by his side. Walking may have been a bad word for it, for she had longer legs and a longer stride, not to mention his limp, causing them to do an awkward shuffle once they were down the steps since he refused to let go of her arm.
There were obvious signs of a fight in the corridor directly below the Astronomy Tower and Minerva could instantly feel a pain in her chest. A reminder of the stunners from the year before and something she had to remember to tell Madame Pomfrey about. There was blood on the floor and she remembered the scarred face of the young Bill Weasley. She could recall the bitter anguish in Harry Potter's voice as he told them what had happened in the tower. And she could feel the fear of watching her young students try to defend the castle; a task that was supposed to be her job.
Lost in her thoughts, she realized fresh tears were on her face once again. Wiping them away with her sleeve, she was about to ask Alastor where on earth he was dragging her to when they came to the doors of the Great Hall. He released her arm and without a word of explanation, he pushed open one of the doors ever so slightly. He motioned for her to peer in and when she did, the sight took her breath away.
Students of all ages were gathered in the Hall. The tables had been pushed to the side and various students had dragged their pillows and blankets down and had them spread out across the floor. Some had even transfigured items into small mattresses. There was no sign of the four colors of the Houses. They were intermingled with sleep clothes of every color. No one wanted to be alone on a night like this. Too much had happened that most of them did not understand.
The younger ones were curled up asleep as the older students kept a watchful eye out for any tears or nightmares. For some of them, sleep would not come and she could see platters of cookies with mugs of milk and hot chocolate mixed in among the blankets. The comfort food was being passed along from Gryffindor to Ravenclaw to Hufflepuff and, her great surprise, the occasional Slytherin. They were at peace, helping each other find solace in the night's events.
Pulling back from the door, Minerva let it close quietly. She did not bother to wipe the tears from her eyes this time. She felt as if she had cried more in a short hour than she had in the last twenty years. First, tears of anger, then sadness, and now…now perhaps her tears were falling for another reason entirely.
"That is why we are still here." Both of his eyes stared sincerely at her. "Death may have passed us by, but it is still looking for them. Look at their strength. They don't even know what happened tonight, but there they are- clinging to one another to survive this."
"They are so young," she whispered, but Minerva understood why he had brought her here. Her heart was claimed by the young adults on the other side of the door.
"And someday, some seventy years later, they will be standing in our shoes having this same conversation." He reached out in an uncharacteristically tender movement to grasp her hand. It looked so small and thin in his large gnarled one. "You want to know what is left in life for us. They are. We cannot give up. You cannot wallow around in pity because a man you trusted is the reason Albus is no longer with us. You are stronger than that. You are Minerva McGonagall, so start acting like it."
"They are all we have left, aren't they?"
"And you are who they look to." Minerva nodded at his words and pushed the door open again to look over her children.
With a sigh she whispered back to him, "The little things make our life worth it, you know. Without the little things, huge moments cannot happen."
"Go to them. They need you more than I," he said, leaning up against his walking stick.
"Thank you, Alastor." Her words were genuine and full of emotion. He knew the moment she walked through that door, she would put on her strongest face. For once, hiding her fears was probably the best course of action. The young students need a steadfast person in their lives right now. But just in that moment, she let him help her and that was proof of an even stronger woman.
Alastor was right. After her short goodbye, Minerva entered the Great Hall, stooping low to check on every child and teenager that rested in the Hall. She wiped away every tear, answered every question, and calmed every fear. No one would sleep well tonight, but as long as she was there to help them, they would all come through in the morning.
For her, the fight was at home. And that was something worth living for.