Chapter Three: Ma'
They spun for what seemed like ages to Harry, as he clung to Minerva with every ounce of strength he possessed until they reached their destination. Gracefully, she stepped out of the hearth and into her home, soothing the small boy in her arms as he still held her neck in a vice-like grip. "Harry, it's over, you can open your eyes now," she softly spoke into his ear.
Hesitating, he lifted his head slowly from the crook of Minerva's neck where he had buried his eyes. Exhausted, both physically and mentally, the witch walked over to the couch and slumped down onto it. Sensing something was wrong with his new guardian, Harry, who had settled into her lap, pulled himself up by the fabric of her shirt, balancing his tiny feet on her lap. Fully standing, he peered into the tired face of Hogwart's former Deputy Headmistress. Seeing her eyes closed, he poked her right one, trying to get them to open.
Groaning, she caught the offending fist in her eye with a pale hand and pulled the tiny boy to her. Harry let his head fall onto her collarbone, wrapping his other arm around Minerva's neck and heaving a deep sigh. They stayed like that for a time, until Harry spoke, "Ma?"
"Aunt Minerva, Harry," she corrected. She was not sure why the boy insisted on dubbing her 'ma' but she wanted to discourage it. She was not his mother, and she thought it wrong for him to be able to replace Lily so quickly.
He sighed in exasperation then corrected himself, "An Merva?"
"Oh! I'm sorry, Harry!" Minerva exclaimed, jumping up from the couch and hurrying into the kitchen. "I forgot you haven't eaten today."
Looking at the plain, muggle clock hanging above the sink, she saw that it was nearly lunchtime. She rummaged around the kitchen, opening cupboards and drawers, pulling out various items until she had bread, applesauce, and milk on the kitchen counter. It was not a wholly nutritious lunch, but it was all she had and at least it wasn't junk.
The meal was finished quickly, both Minerva and Harry making a feast of the few edible items in her home. When they were done, she cleaned the countertop with a charm - she was far too tired to use the muggle method as she normally would.
"Come on, Harry," she said, stifling a yawn, "It's nap time."
"Mkay," came the placid reply.
Minerva raised her eyebrows - she had never heard of a toddler willingly subject himself to a mid-day nap, even if he really was tired. Harry met her gaze sleepily and reached his arms up in a silent demand to be carried. Shrugging inwardly, she obliged, picking him up and walking out of the kitchen as he latched his hands together behind her neck. She trudged up the stairs and into the larger of the two bedrooms on the floor. Balancing Harry with one hand, she took off her coat and tossed to over the back of the chair in front of a small vanity in the corner. She sat down on the bed, kicked off her shoes, and lay back slowly, sinking into the many pillows decorating her bed.
Harry released her neck but remained glued to her chest as he made himself comfortable on top of her. Minerva's hands held him in place, on hand supporting his head, the other resting on his back, the pillows buoying her arms. They lay like that for nearly an hour, breathing each other in and memorizing each other's scents. His forehead leaned on the side of her neck, his right hand on the left side of her collarbone, and his left hand behind his head on her shoulder.
"Ma?" he whispered after a while.
Minerva sighed, "Harry, I'm not your ma." She sat up, placing Harry beside her as she stretched over the rest of the bed to her nightstand. She pulled open the drawer, reached in, and drew out a nearly full photo album. These were pictures of her favorite students, dating all the way back to Molly Gardner and Arthur Weasley in the fifties. These were the students she stayed in touch with, even years after graduation. She flipped to the last few pages, where her most recent students were. The last page held pictures of last year's Gryffindor Champions and their Quidditch Cup. There were Arthur and Molly's children, Charlie and Bill. Little second year Charlie standing next to his older, taller brother, grinning widely and clutching the tiny golden snitch in his hand.
"Kiddif!" squealed Harry pointing at the picture with glee.
"Yes, yes, but that's not what I want to show you." She flipped further back to the year 1975, when the infamous Marauders began their reign of pranks on Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The first picture was of James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew, the Marauders in their first year.
Harry immediately pointed to James and said, "Daddy!"
"Yes, that's your father, Harry."
"No more," he stated matter-of-factly, "Daddy up inna sky wif d'angews - Mummy set."
Minerva stared at the picture, her eyes watering as she remembered two of her favorite students, even as she smoothed the soft black hair on their son's head. "That's right, dear, your Daddy's up in the sky with the angels. He's always watching you. And so is your mother," she said gently, turning to the next picture. Here, the Marauders were in sixth year - Lily and James held hands shyly in the middle of the picture while the three remaining Marauders snickered behind them.
She pointed to the young girl with fire hair holding his father's hand. "That's your mother, Harry."
Harry reached out to touch the picture, recognition flashing across his face as he said, "Mummy."
Minerva turned the page yet again, to his parents wedding day, again, the litany was said. The last picture in the album was of Lily seated in a regal pose, her husband standing proudly behind her with a hand on her shoulder and their son perched on her lap. Minerva smiled as she watched James bite his lower lip in an effort to stifle his laugher at the ridiculous pose. Lily rolled her eyes at her husband's antics and the baby started laughing and clapping as his father fell out of the picture, standing up again only to collapse against the side of the picture laughing hysterically. Even Lily couldn't completely mask her giggles as a few broke through her stern demeanor.
"Mummy and Daddy nah hewe," Harry said suddenly. "Dey up inna sky wif d'angews?"
"Yes, Harry, but they will always love you, and they'll always be watching out for you."
"Ma," he stated firmly, poking Minerva in the nose, emphasizing his point.
"Harry, what did I just tell you?" she asked exasperated.
"Mummy up inna sky wif d'angews, Ma dow hewer wif me," he said seriously, folding his arms across his chest and glaring at Minerva as if daring her to argue with him again.
Minerva didn't know what to think. The fifteen month-old baby rationalized the situation differently than she had. He knew exactly what he was doing. His calling her 'Ma' was not him replacing Lily, but rather, him adopting a new guardian.
"Alright, Harry," she said finally, giving in to his glare and his reasoning.
A happy smile lit up his face as he reached out and triumphantly said, "Ma."
Laughing, she pulled him into a hug and laid him down on the bed beside her. She reached over him and pushed the photo album back onto the nightstand. Settling back into her pillows, she saw the baby asleep already, the ring finger of her left hand caught by his right and trapped in a death grip. She pried her finger out of his hand and he began to whimper. Smoothing the hair away from his forehead, she shushed him, humming an old song to him as he turned his head into her touch. Lying down, she set her head in the crook of her left arm and placed her right around the boy, going over his pudgy legs and reaching her hand up to touch his cheek with the tips of her fingers, fencing him in with her forearm.
Placing a light, loving kiss on the scar on his forehead, she drifted off to sleep, absently stroking his cheek.
"Ma," he muttered sleepily.
"Ma," she agreed with a smile.
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