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Chapter Two: A Stronger Type of Love

Tensing, she tried to visualize the fight that would eventually take place in the Headmaster's office. A few seconds later, she felt a small pair of hands wind their way around her neck. Looking down at the bundle in her arms, she met the puzzled green-eyes of her charge. Smiling at his expression, she pulled him into a loving hug and whispered, "It will be all right, little one. I'll keep you safe no matter what happens." With that, the small boy snuggled into her embrace and she continued up the path to the castle.

In light of the recent defeat of Voldemort, the Headmaster had given the student body the rest of the week off in order to celebrate with family. Minerva opened the towering doors to the main entrance with a flick of her wand and stepped inside. The castle was, for the most part, completely devoid of life; the ghosts were probably down in the dungeons celebrating Voldemort's fall in their own way, even Flich had left with Mrs. Norris to join in the festivities. Her quick footsteps echoed throughout the cavernous halls, making her feel very small and insignificant against the grandness surrounding her.

She made her way to the Headmaster's office, where she supposed he was, holding the baby to her and steeling herself for an unpleasant meeting. The stone gargoyle that guarded the Headmaster's office stepped aside when it saw her, not even waiting for her to utter the password. Lifting her skirt with one hand, she climbed the spiral staircase up to his office. Once she reached the top, she knocked on the door quickly, before she could change her mind.

Opening the door, she saw the Headmaster sitting behind his desk, his elbows propped up on it, his hands steepled in front of his as he regarded her with flashing blue eyes devoid of their usual twinkle.

"Albus," she started quietly, not daring to do anything to enrage the wizard further, "I couldn't leave him there, his aunt - "

"This was not a decision for you to make," he replied, his voice rising dangerously as he continued, "His relatives provide him with the protection he needs, it was foolish of you to - "

"They don't love him, Dumbledore," she shot back, "Do you know what she did, his aunt? Do you even care?"

"Of course I care, it's just - "

"She tossed him into a closet!" Minerva yelled. Seeing Dumbledore open his mouth to question this, she continued, "Yes, she read the letter, yes, she realized that he was Lily's, but she didn't care! Neither of them did! They kept calling him 'it' and 'that thing' like he was a piece of rubbish rather than their nephew!"

"All the same, Minerva, he is pro- "

"I don't care if he's protected from Death Eaters there," she cried. "Who will protect him from his family? They don't love him, Dumbledore, and I refuse to leave him there," she finished, her chest heaving with emotion.

"As I said before," Albus stated, a dangerous edge to his voice, "This was not a decision you had the right to make. I have my reasons for leaving him with his relatives, there is - "

"Yes, yes," she cut in irritably, "There is an ancient magic you have set up to keep him safe through the blood of his relatives. I surmised as much."

Albus stood there, silently regarding the head-strong Gryffindor before him. Her cheeks were flushed in anger, but her hands were gentle as she cradled the small bundle in her arms. His eyes were drawn to the green eyes staring back at him with trepidation as his small hands firmly grasped the fabric of Minerva's coat, as if he could sense that the man before them sought to re-separate them.

'Perhaps there is a way,' a small part of him thought, 'Perhaps he could stay here.'

'And put the rest of the students in danger?' another part of him shot back. 'And what of the protection?'

'That can be dealt with,' the small part countered, 'There are magical binding spells that result in just as strong a bond as blood.'

'But they wouldn't work, now would they? Foster blood is not the same as blood blood.'

'Orphans adopted in our world go through it.'

'It is not the same, he's not an orphan yet. His family is still alive.'

'That doesn't matter,' the small part spat out, exasperated, 'they don't want him, didn't you hear her? They don't love him.'

'His protection is more important. The fate of the wizardring world lies with this boy.'

"Albus," Minerva started again, bringing him out of his reverie, "a child cannot grow up without love. Look at Tom Riddle."

He looked up sharply at the woman in front of him, wondering exactly why she had brought up that name. She was right, of course, a child growing up without love could have disastrous consequences. Still. . .

"Minerva," he replied gently, "the boy has far too much Gryffindor in his blood to turn evil. Tom Riddle was the heir of Slytherin, there was very little to stop it."

"I have a hard time believing in predestination, as you well know," she shot back. "Tom Riddle grew up in an orphanage without anyone to look out for him and love him. I refuse to allow the same to happen to Harry."

"It is out of the question," he uncharacteristically snapped. "There are too many lives at stake if he remains here. You know as well as I do that Voldemort will eventually return, it is only a matter of time."

"So you would sacrifice a boy's well-being for the sake of the greater good?" she snapped back. "And as for being a risk to the students if he were to stay here - what do you think is going to happen when he begins his schooling here? Do you honestly think the Dark Lord will just give up because the boy has reached the age of eleven?"

"So you would sacrifice the greater good for one child?"

"I know he can't stay here, Dumbledore," she spat, "I know the risks as well as you do. But the boy cannot stay with those people."

"And who would you leave him with?" he asked critically, "Sirius? You know that's out of the question. Remus Lupin? He will not be able to care for the child as he needs to be taken care of! Or have you forgotten his little problem that occurs during the full moon? Harry would not be safe with him. Besides, he's already taken off," he snapped his mouth shut, refusing to say more on that subject.

A tense silence filled the room as both realized the answer to the question.

"I will take him with me," Minerva stated firmly. Her stern glare told Dumbledore her decision was final.

Meeting her eyes stonily, he asked in a quiet, deadly voice, "And what of your teaching position?"

"Give it to someone without a child to care for," she hissed. She turned and strode out of the room without looking back.

Albus Dumbledore drew in a shuddering breath as she descended the spiral staircase and threw a disgusted glare at her retreating shadow. 'She'll come around,' he convinced himself, 'She won't leave.'

When she reached the bottom of the stairs, she slumped against the hallway wall. Sliding down the wall until she was sitting on the ground, she brought her knees up and leaned the baby against them.

"What do I do, bebay?" she asked quietly, begging for some type of answer. He stared up at her through huge, bottle-green irises, and reached out to her grinning.

"Ma," he said as he reached up.

She froze and stared into his eyes as he grabbed a few strands of hair that had worked their way out of the tidy bun she kept it in. She laughed as he tugged gently and gazed down at him.

"Well, I suppose that settles it," she stated with a smile. "But it isn't 'ma' dearest, it's Aunt Minerva."

"An merva?"

She laughed again, untangling her hair from his tiny hand and said, "Yes, sweet, Aunt Minerva. Come on," she stood up slowly, "Let's go pack."

As she turned the corner to the transfigurations wing, she slowed, trying to savor the last time she walked down these halls. In her arms, Harry stared around, twisting his head from side to side, trying to take in everything at once. Vast floor to ceiling windows lined one side of the main hall, rich fabrics in burgundy, gold, and royal purple framing them. A suit of armor stood between each window against the stone of the castle. Harry squealed in delight shouting, "Ma! Ma! Yook! Yook!" as the suits waved to him cheerily. Minerva chuckled, repositioning the boy in her left arm so he could look out the window without twisting around backwards.

As they turned the next corner, Harry let out a surprised yell, "Kiddif! Yook, Ma! Kiddif!" and pointed energetically out the window. Minerva turned to see what was making him so excited and almost fell down laughing.

"Yes, Harry, Quidditch," she repeated, walking over to stand next to the window. Down the slope of the hill where Hogwarts stood was the Quidditch stadium. Harry had spotted the brightly colored flags of the different houses flying beneath the tall hoops of gold. "Your father's taught you all about Quidditch, now has he?" she inquired, thinking wryly of the Quidditch-crazed student she used to know.

"Kiddif got free chathers, an doo beaters, an'a keeper, an'a seeker, an'a kaffle, an'a buggers, an'a goyen snit!" he stated proudly, looking up into Minerva's face for confirmation.

"That's absolutely right!" And, because she couldn't resist, she asked, "And who's the best Quidditch team?"

"Giffdor!" Harry yelled.

She smiled down at him. "Gryffindor," she muttered. "Of course your father and Mr. Black took care of brainwashing you, didn't they?" she asked as they proceeded down the hall.

Reaching a painting of a young scribe hard at work, she stopped. Harry, amazed at the figure scribbling furiously on a blank piece of parchment, called, "Heyo?" Startled, the figure in the painting looked up at the baby boy waving shyly at him from within the sturdy grasp of Professor Minerva McGonagall.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Professor!" the figure cried. "I thought you were out celebrating!"

"It's quite alright, Equin," she replied. "Elladorna"

The picture slid to the side revealing a large, sturdy, oak door with a black handle and black hinges. Twisting the handle, she pushed and opened the door into a spacious, inviting suite. She across the living room and into the bedroom through the door in the far right-hand side of the space.

The room was large, but sufficiently filled with a huge armoire next to the bed and shelves upon shelves of books, scrolls, and interesting knick-knacks acquired over the years. A large, queen-sized, four-poster bed stood against the wall on the other side of the door adorn in typical Gryffindor burgundy and gold. A small-ish fireplace was set in the stone directly across from the bed about three feet up the wall. Depositing Harry on the bed, she turned to open the drawer of her nightstand.

A stuffed Gryffindor lion, presented to her by the Headmaster as a joke, lay inside. She pulled it out slowly and handed it to the boy, who took it with a look of wonder on his face as the lion proceeded to roar and move its legs around as he held it.

Realizing that she had better pack fast before the gravity of the situation hit her, she pulled out her wand and opened the drawstring bag lying on top of the nightstand. With a wave of her wand, the books and other miscellaneous objects about her room flew into the bottomless bag. Next, her shrunk the contents of the nightstands and the armoire and waved them, too, into the bag, watching absently as her strict teaching wardrobe zoomed towards her. She left Harry on the bed as she packed up her bathroom, but picked him up and moved into the living room so she could keep an eye on him.

Soon, her rooms were empty, all of her belongings packed into the medium-sized bag she slung over her shoulder. Taking a deep breath, she looked around at her empty quarters for the last time, sweeping the room and coming to a stop on the small boy before the huge, burning fire. The sides of her mouth curved upward in a loving smile as he made the roaring lion in his hands fly through the air as if on a broomstick. He stopped moving, feeling her gaze on him, and grinned at her. Rising unsteadily, he teetered towards her as she went down on her knees and opened her arms wide.

"Come on, love," she urged. He came closer and closer until he fell into her arms and she scooped him up, whispering into his ear, "Let's go home."

Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out a pinch of Floo powder and cast it into the fire. The flames roared and turned green. "Hang on tight, Harry," she said, and stepped into the fire calling, "Marian Cottage" and then they were gone.


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