The glass in front of me is no less full than when I sat down several minutes (hours? days?) ago. It had seemed like a good idea to go and have a drink, and the Hog's Head seemed like a good place to have it. And so I am sitting there with one in front of me, but I can’t seem to get any further. I know that it will not be particularly good whiskey, but that isn’t the problem. The problem is that I can’t seem to move to lift the glass and drink.
Now, I am a healer and physician so I can tell you that this a clearly a symptom of a larger, and almost certainly non-physical problem. I believe that I can also identify the source of that problem, as well as its contributing and complicating factors. I cannot tell you, however, what, if anything, can be done about it.
The source is my suddenly having run out of road, metaphorically speaking. I have always managed, sometimes more quickly and easily that other times, to find a new course whenever it seemed that I had come upon an equally metaphorical brick wall. I am at this moment seated in front of the Great Wall of China—with an untouched glass of whiskey in front of me. I think I mentioned that already, didn’t I?
Someone is saying something about “closing” and “going home.” I look at him and try to explain that there is no home to which I can go. This is not quite true. I do, in fact, own a house, and there is nothing to keep me from going there—except that he said “Home.” Which would work us back around to the wall, contributing and complicating factors, and he doesn’t seem to be inviting that so much as asking me to go someplace else, and I can’t. So I look at him and say: “I don’t have one.” He gives me a strange look at this, and glances at the glass, which is also unmoved, and mutters something, the walks away. So here I am again with the glass, the whiskey, and the wall.
There have been homes, of course, over the years. First with my parents, albeit a home in only the most basic sense in that my blood relations lived there. Then school, which was home, because I was cared for and about. Then home was wherever Malcolm and I were together, the best of all of them, if the shortest lived. Then the lesser home of my work as a Physician and Auror. Finally the home of resistance, war, and rebuilding the fabric of my old school that had been blasted and torn. And then...well now...well here we are.
Someone is sitting next to me now, a hand comes to rest on my arm. A voice is cutting though the fog.
“Jordan...Jordan...dear girl, do you hear me?” I turn to look at Minerva. There is concern all over her face. It takes a second or two to register that I am the focus of that concern.
“Of course, you're sitting right next to me. Why are you here?”
“Aberforth said you were having a bit of a problem. He said you didn't think you had anywhere to go.”
“I don't.” How could she not see that? “I have a house, but I don't have home. He said I need to go home.” I then reminded her of the list of homes, and the part where I have run out of them, that Wall thing.
“You can go back to the Ministry.”
“No, I am done with hunting people. I won't be an Auror again.”
“I have broken my oath. That's impossible now.”
“Your oath? ... The Hippocratic Oath?”
“Yes, I came to Hogwarts prepared to do harm—to kill if I had to.”
“And did you, kill?”
“No. At least I don't know that I have—but I was prepared to.”
“I returned knowing most of my enemies would be there when I arrived. I came expecting to die.” Minerva says nothing, but takes my left hand in both of hers. She looks at me with great sadness in her eyes.
“Expecting?” Her voice is soft.
“Yes. I've certainly been on borrowed time for the last seventeen years.”
“So you didn’t think you would live through the day.” She hesitates and her grip tightens slightly. “Or did you not want to?”
Only my friend, Richard, has known me as long as Minerva McGonagall, and no one knows me better. I consider her question, having not wanted to ask it of myself before.
“I did not come intending to die. I came certain that I could have no other outcome but to end as one of the dead. I think that’s different.” She lets out a little sigh and relaxes her grip, her shoulders dropping a little as she does.
“Yes, significantly different.” Her voice is stronger and more relaxed as well.
“Minerva, I came to fight as we had discussed. I came to do all that I could to help Harry Potter take his chance. That was what mattered.” Her brow furrows again, slightly. “But believe me I came hoping to see you, if only once more, and to justify your trust in me.” She starts as if to speak, so I stop her by finally saying what I have always wanted to tell her. “You are my mother, in every way that matters. If I had been only half the daughter you deserve, it would have been enough at the end. It would be enough now.”
I have known her for a long time, on some of the best and worst days of both our lives. I have only seen her cry once: the day she buried her husband. With a small intake of breath, she lets her tears go. She tries again to speak, then silently pulls me into her arms and kisses me on the cheek. She gives me a tight hug, then pulls back until she holds me at arms’ length.
My cheek is wet with her tears. She gives me a long look, with no effort to hide her love for me. Gently she puts her right hand to my cheek. Finally she finds her voice again.
“Elphinstone and I spoke more than once about what fools your parents are, and how we would have felt ourselves blessed to have had you as our daughter.”
There is a cough, and we both remember that we are not alone in the room. Minerva brushes her tears away and turns again to me.
“Do you think we can start back now for the school?” I consider the question.
“Yes, I think I can do that.” We stand, and to Aberforth’s relief, make our way out of the door, which closes quickly behind us, and we hear the bolt shot into place.
The two of us stand in the lane and silently take in the beauty of a warm and clear August night. Then we start toward Hogwarts. As we walk through the quiet evening most of the houses and shops are dark, and there is little noise to cut through the calm.
The crunch of our footsteps pauses at the gate of a small house fronted by a garden gone a bit wild. Neither of us speaks, each awash in her own memories of the happy couple that lived there.
“I should come down and clear away some of this.” Her voice is controlled, but I know at what cost.
“It might be nice to have a little time where the greatest challenge is trimming and a little weeding, with no discussion or meetings about The Way Forward.” I reply. I know it is not nearly as simple as that, but it would at least be time for herself.
“Yes, it might be at that.” She says, flatly. We start again, but carrying a bit more baggage.
Leaving the village we start along the deserted section of the way back to the school grounds. There is a breeze rustling the greenery now, but it only adds to the gentleness of the night. I am walking along feeling strangely disconnected. I have seen everything hundreds of times but it passes like a dream as I progress towards the school. We come to a place where the way widens a bit and a large tree stands to the side. I find myself stopping at a memory.
“I manifested my first corporeal Patronus here. Lucius was being particularly nasty to Richard and Malcolm and I just raised my wand and boom! ” I see it as if in the moment. The look on Lucius’s face as the bobcat charges toward him is a rich bonus. Minerva stops and turns toward me.
“I think the news had reached the entire school by the time you made it to the gate.” I hear the smile in her voice.
“I can only see behind me. Everything is so clear. But can’t see ahead. It’s like the night we were attacked. I was on the ground looking into his face and knowing it was the last thing I would see.”
“But it wasn’t.” The smile is gone again. “You found a way forward. You can again.” Still in the moment, I lift my wand and point toward the empty road.
“Expecto Patronum!” Lucius in shock was a very happy moment and I channel it now. The Patronus is not the bobcat of my youth, but the panther that replaced it. It is big, fierce, and looking for a fight.
“Oh, what a fool!” I am pulled back to the present. My Patronus fades to mist.
“Me, Jordan, not you.” She is clear in the moonlight and an exasperated look covers her face. “In my own defense, I had thought you would go back to the Ministry. If you had only said something weeks ago.”
“About what?” Nothing is making sense.
“About you, you silly girl. About how you were feeling. About being at loose ends.” She huffs in disgust, and I think it is about her and not me. “Or if I had taken half a second to ask you about anything. There is no excuse for that.”
“Well, death, destruction, and....”
“No.” she says, cutting me off firmly, “not after all this time. But that's as may be. Come, let's go back to my office.” And with that she turns and starts a brisk and purposeful walk.
In no time we are back at Hogwarts and entering the Head's Office. There is a nice breeze from an open window. Without thinking I look to the table that held the perch for Headmaster Dumbledore's phoenix—but of course neither the perch nor the bird are there. I never saw the room when Severus was head, but I can't imagine it was any more sorted and tidy than Minerva has made it since becoming Headmistress. She had taken her place behind the desk and motions for me to take a chair in front. This is clearly official.
“Please have a seat, Dr. Denbeigh.” I sit and force myself to focus on the moment.
“Please hear me through before you give your answer. I want to make the situation absolutely clear.” I make no move to either talk, or run from the room, so, with a firm nod, she continues. “As you may or may not know I have been able to retain or return nearly all of the staff from before Headmaster Snape's tenure, there are one or two minor exceptions that we can easily cover, and one quite major post, as yet unfilled. Now it is true that there have been difficulties with this post in the past several years, but we are convinced that the source was a curse placed on the position by He Who...” she pauses and closes her eyes briefly, “by Voldemort. With his death we are all certain that the curse is lifted and there should be no more problems.”
My jaw may actually have dropped.
“You mean Defense Against Dark Arts?”
“Now, Jordan, I did ask you to wait until...”
“Dear God. Yes.”
“At least give yourself a moment to consider it in this new context—yes? Jordan, are you sure?” She is seemingly torn between incredulity and delight.
“Yes, it would require all of my skills and I might still prevent some harm.” I find I am also incredulous, and relieved, for a moment. “But are you sure? If anybody returns to Slytherin, well not only Slytherin, but there are going to be several families who will not hear my name without a shudder of their own.” She gives me a direct look.
“Can you teach the child without holding the family's transgressions against them?”
“I think I can. I worked very hard at being fair when I was an Auror. And there are a great many people who can't hear the names Denbeigh or Blackthorne without a little knowing nod over those reputations. Even I do it”
“Well, then, I don't see that it will be a problem then.”
“And you are desperate to fill the position.”
“That as well.” We exchange rueful smiles. “And if the curse is not broken, you can move on to something else in the spring. Unless the curse has transformed with his death.”
“Transformed? What could be worse?” Minerva gives a smile born of spending nearly all of her adult life as an educator.
“You could be here teaching for decades.”