Chapter Ten: A Child's Resolve
Harry James Potter was not a spoiled child. He had been raised in a quaint home by a strict but loving woman who frequently told him stories about his real parents. Near the village of Ottery St. Catchpole, he and his friends had grown up. Naturally, he was closest to Ron Weasley and his twin brothers as they were closest to his age and shared common young boy interests. There were other children he knew from the town, but most of them came from muggle families, not that it mattered much, as his adoptive mother had pointed out, because boys were boys and would be so until the end of time.
In all of his happiness with his life, his favorite part was his mother, Minerva McGonagall. He loved her somewhat less-than-sane friends as well, who had collectively adopted him as their nephew. Of all his adopted family, Harry had a myriad of aunts, but only a few uncles, only two of which dropped by regularly. Mr. Weasley, or Uncle Arthur, visited whenever he could, usually to collect his own children or to take the group on a "boys day out". The other uncle that frequently visited was Uncle Daniel Figg, whose wife, Aunt Arabella, was as crazy as her husband was kind.
The young boy swung lazily in a hammock that hung in midair a few yards from the house under a shady oak tree. He thought about the prospect of leaving everything he knew for a faraway school somewhere up north. He was only six years old, so deep ponderings naturally gave way to more interesting thoughts as a friendly butterfly alighted on his knee.
Minerva watched him from the kitchen window as she absent mindedly cut an apple into slices over the sink. Amanda rattled on in the background about some hair-brained plot she'd hatched up to smuggle a few not-quite- illegal flying carpets into the country to sell on the black market, just for a lark. She was on a quest to annoy the Ministry of Magic more than any one person had the right to. Minerva listened minimally, her thoughts on the proposed teaching position she had received the night before.
"They'd have a hard time tracing that one wouldn't they?" Amanda asked, studying her friend's face as she leaned on the countertop beside her. The other woman replied with a faint nod and continued to stare out the window. Giving up, Amanda focused on something else, for it was obvious the other witch's mind was miles away.
Minerva had changed, Amanda noticed not for the first time. Being a mother was good for her. She was less likely now to send back a single sentence snipe to the headmaster berating him for his tardiness, just as she was more likely to graciously accept the man's apology.
"Accepting the apology isn't even an issue is it?" Amanda mused out loud.
Shaking her head, Minerva turned away from the window and met her friend's eyes. "No, it's not," she stated, placing the last of the sliced apple onto a plate. "I've already told you I forgive him. It's the job that I'm thinking about now."
"Harry will understand. He's a smart boy."
"And what exactly will he understand?" she demanded, "That I'm taking him away from everything he knows? That I'm dragging him to the other end of the country so I can have a change of scenery?"
"You know he won't think that," Amanda shot back, hawk eyes glittering dangerously. "You don't give him enough credit-"
"He's six years old," Minerva snapped, "He won't even start there for another five years."
"Ma?" came a timid call from the doorway. The two witches whirled around to meet the serious green eyes of the boy peering up at them from beside a huge gray bloodhound. "Can I talk to you?"
Amanda meant to retreat to the study quickly so the two could try to work things out alone, but settled herself behind a wall in the dining room to listen, just in case.
Sighing inwardly, Minerva followed him out onto the back porch as Amanda tiptoed over to the window above the lounge chair. Harry crawled up onto the long chair as Minerva sat at the foot of it and passed him the plate of sliced apples. He ignored it at first, apparently preparing to ask something very important. 'Like how good the Gryffindor team is,' Amanda thought with a grin.
"Ma, if we go to Hogwarts," he said seriously, "will you be happy?"
Amanda's head snapped up to stare at the boy (through the wall) as Minerva stared at him in shock. Trying not to tear up, she gave him a small smile, "Yes, Harry I would be happy, but I'd be happy here as well."
"Do you want to teach?" came the next candid question.
With a sigh, she replied, "Harry, this is not about what I want, it's about what you want."
"No it's not," he stated with a stern expression identical to the one she gave whenever someone was lying. "What do you want to do?"
"I want you to be happy, Harry."
"I am happy."
"And what do you propose we do?"
"I want to go," he replied firmly.
[To Headmaster Albus Dumbledore,
I, Minerva McGonagall, accept the position to teach the subject of Transfigurations at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the upcoming school year. Myself and Mr. Harry Potter will be arriving in Hogsmeade on Monday the 18th of August via portkey at noon.
PS: I am returning to Hogwarts to teach, but Harry is still my son. Yes, my son. If anything happens to him, take that incident as my two weeks notice. I hope you will put whatever prejudices you have against my boy behind you and treat him as you would any other student.]
Albus Dumbledore read the letter once more and nodded. A month and a half ago, he had received a letter from his former deputy informing him of her decision. A week before that, he had received another letter from her that he had folded neatly and placed it in the middle drawer of his desk.
Firstly, I would like to point out that it has taken you the better part of five years to admit to your error in judgment. Secondly, I would like to inform you that we, as in Mr. Potter and I, have been doing very well despite your initial misgivings. The final point I will make is that you are forgiven.
Albus, I would have forgiven you if you had simply written "I'm sorry" on a scrap piece of parchment and sent it to me. However, your epic was also sufficient. We were both idiots. You more so than I, but that's beside the point. I could have stayed to reason with you, instead, I left and never looked back. But the night you came to my house and criticized my decision was unforgivable. Setting up the wards graduated you from unforgivable to possibly forgivable. And now that you have apologized, you are forgiven.
For all you are forgiven, you cannot expect everything to go back to the way it used to be. We are both different people now, and, while I think this time apart has done more good than harm, we have both changed.
"Ma, come on! The taxi's going to be here any minute!" a young boy yelled up the stairs. Six suitcases stood outside on the porch by the door as a redheaded woman did a last-minute sweep of the house. Four redhead boys and one girl sat on the front steps of the porch as a black-haired child walked back out of the house and plopped down between the twins and their youngest brother with a sigh. He wore a lightweight, pale blue wizardring robe over a crisp white tee-shirt and clean blue jeans. Round black-rimmed glasses sat upon the bridge of his nose as he propped his elbows up on his knees and held his chin in his hands. The twins began badgering him to tell them all about Zonko's - the famous joke shop in Hogsmeade. From there, the conversation turned to pranks, with the twins presiding and Percy reprimanding them sternly (and was completely ignored).
In the master bedroom, Minerva stood before a long mirror, carefully studying her appearance. She had told the headmaster that they had both changed, but she never fully realized just how much she herself had. As a result of having a rambunctious child, she spent many days outside in the sun. Her skin was no longer milk white and creamy, but a healthy tan - not overly dark, but a very light bronze type of glow. Her hands were rougher than they used to be, soft calluses covering her fingers and palms from working outside in the garden. The back of her hands were still relatively smooth, the veins rising up minimally to create a patchwork effect. Her nails were still manicured to perfection, thanks to a handy charm Reina Diggory had found. Her once blue-black hair had been bleached by the sun and was now a very dark brown, rather than opaque, and contrasted handsomely with a few scattered silver hairs. Her tresses were pinned up in an elegant braided knot, perfectly centered by Molly Weasley. She wore a light, square neck princess-cut summer dress in pale green that reached down to the toes of her shoes. The shoes were a rich, creamy color with a two inch heel that, Arabella claimed, helped with her posture and made her glide rather than simply walk. Minerva was skeptical of her friend's description, but looking in the mirror she had to admit it: she looked good. A dab of makeup and a flowing cream-colored robe and matching hat completed the ensemble. Grabbing a purse, she charmed it to match the color of her dress and made her way down the stairs.
Tate, who immediately recognized the activity and the packing as a sign that his human was leaving again, had been sulking and refused to come near her. Instead, he sat with the children on the steps, enjoying the attention as Ginny scratched him in a hard to reach spot behind his ears. Switch had been following Minerva around as always, uncertain of what the unusual activity around the house meant, but had worked it out eventually and was now sulking quietly next to Tate, receiving the same attention from Percy. Bruno, or Beans, was never one to have his spirits deflated and was energetically barreling back and forth across the front yard, leaving torn up daises, roses, and lilies in his wake. Spud, ever dedicated, lay at Harry's feet as the boy reached down to moodily scratch his ears.
"Don't look so down, mate," George said brightly, "There'll be a ton of stuff to do when you get there!"
"Charlie says the castle is so big, it's almost its own country," Fred put in, giving Harry, who sat beside him, a brotherly shove.
"You'll have loads to do," Ron piped up, "And you'll get to see real live Quidditch almost every week once the season starts."
"Ron's right, Harry," Minerva said gently as she emerged from the house, "Maybe Ron will even be able to come to a few games and watch with you."
"That's everything, then," said Molly as she walked onto the porch. "Charms are on the dog dishes so they refill once a day, same for their water. Windows are all closed, curtains drawn, stove off, refrigerator completely emptied [here, she shot a look at her twins and youngest son, all who grinned back innocently], and the taxi should be here any moment."
No sooner than she said it, a bright orange taxi appeared with a loud bang on the other side of the trees, turned into the drive, and careened up to the house. Screeching to a halt a few feet shy of ruining the begonias, the vehicle stopped and a short young man hopped out.
" 'Morning, 'mum," he greeted, touching the brim of his silver bowler smartly. "All set to go then?"
As the children said goodbye to each other and promises of frequent owls and status reports were exchanged, Minerva turned to the luggage by the door. With a hasty wave of her wand, they shrunk, became feather light, and floated into her purse. Kissing Molly on the cheek and giving her a hug, she thanked her for everything.
"Don't mention it, Minerva," she sniffed, trying to hold back a stream of tears as she returned the older woman's embrace.
As she released their mother, the Weasley children crowded around her. Ginny threw her arms around her waist as the boys restrained themselves.
"Now you two mind your mother and behave yourselves," she addressed the twin sternly, before leaning down to give them each a kiss. They grinned at her innocently and she shook her head as shr turned to address the next Weasley.
"Take care of things, Percy," she said as she chucked his chin affectionately. He nodded mutely and she turned to Ron, who was having a harder time than his brothers at keeping his tears in check.
"We'll be back soon, Ron," she said softly as she embraced him over his little sister, who was still securely fastened to her waist. "Save us some food for Christmas, will you?" she winked. Sniffing loudly, Ron nodded and stepped back.
Meanwhile, Molly had seized Harry in a bone-crushing hug and demanded weekly owls and told him to take care of his mother. "And don't let that old headmaster pick on her, alright?" Harry nodded and sniffed, "Yes Aunt Molly," as they finally broke apart. Turning around, he saw his mother trying to dislodge a very distraught Ginny and the taxi man tapping his foot impatiently as he stood beside the open back door of his vehicle.
"We'll be back before you know it, Ginny," Minerva softly spoke into Ginny's ear, "And we'll owl every week, all right?"
"Ok," she sniffed as Minerva succeeded in unlatching the girl's arms. "Bye Aunt McGonagall, bye Harry," she said trying to keep the quiver in her voice to a minimum. The others followed suit, echoing the girl's goodbye as the dark-haired pair stepped into the taxi, the young boy calling back his own farewells.
"Send us some stuff from Zonko's!" yelled the twins and they ducked out of reach of their mother's swipe at their heads. Harry did his best imitation of the two aspiring pranksters' grins as Molly shook her head.
The car careened down the driveway and around the trees to the main road before disappearing with a loud bang. Minerva cringed as the car lurched, remembering why she hated all aspects of wizard cabs. However, though a tad expensive, they did have their advantages - they transported their customers almost instantly to their destination and did not involve the soot and mess of Floo travel. One of the disadvantages, besides the breakneck journey, was that it only took one so far. Minerva and Harry were taking the taxi to Diagon Alley, London where they would take the noon portkey to Hogmeade.
"Leaky Cauldron, 'mum," the driver announced as the car screeched to a halt in front of the establishment. Paying the man, she and Harry quickly stepped out of the vehicle and hurried into the building, avoiding drawing the muggles' attention as they were dressed in wizarding robes.
They made their way through the inn and the magical barrier and stepped into Diagon Alley. Harry's eyes lit up at the stores and the people. Even though he had been there many times, he could never cease to appreciate the variety there. Seizing Minerva's hand, he dragged her over to Quality Qudditch and pressed his nose up against the window. Grinning, she let him gawk at the brooms and uniforms in the display for a minute and glanced at her watch. They had fifteen minutes to spare so she let him gawk a while longer - he was all but drooling at the Cleansweep 5, the newest model. Finally, at five minutes to noon, she peeled his slight form away from the window and hurried down the street to catch their portkey. Beyond Gringotts was the portkey station, a large roped-off area that resembled a paddock. Joining the line for the Hogsmeade portkey, Minerva fished around in her purse for their tickets. The wizardring town was always crowded at this time of the year, so Minerva had acquired tickets to make sure that they were not shunted aside.
As the "conductor" announced, "Noon to Hogsmeade," the throng of people moved forward. Grasping the end of a length of rope, Minerva scooped Harry up so she wouldn't lose him when they arrived. Harry latched his arms around Minerva's neck, taking care not to muss her hair, and watch the great green clock off to the side.
"Five. . . four. . . three. . . two. . . one. . ." he counted down, gripping Minerva's neck tighter - he hated portkeys. Suddenly, they were swept up from Daigon Alley and plunked in a green meadow just outside Hogsmeade. Minerva, who had excellent balance (privileges of being a cat) was one of the few people standing. A man in bright blue robes came forward to collect the portkey and help the other witches and wizards up as Minerva and Harry made their way into the town.
Keeping Harry's hand firmly in her own, she led him down the main street and couldn't help but smile at his star struck expression. He insisted that they stop frequently, ducking into various shops (Zonko's of course, the post office, Honeydukes) before Minerva finally took him to Three Broomsticks to grab a quick lunch.
As they sat down at a corner table with a plate of sandwiches between them, Minerva heard a familiar voice exclaim, "Professor McGonagall?!"
Turning, she meet the surprised, but happy face of Rosmerta, the owner of the place. Harry looked up in surprise, for it was usually himself that people exclaimed about. Minerva greeted the witch with a smile, "Hello, Rosemerta."
"Well, just look at you, professor! You look wonderful! What brings you back to Hogsmeade?" she gushed, clearly delighted at seeing the other woman. "Oh, wait," she said, her face lighting up even more, "Are you taking up your position at the school again?" Minerva grinned and nodded as she helped herself to a small bite of a ham sandwich.
The two women continued the conversation for a few minutes and Minerva managed to eat three halves of sandwiches by the time the other woman left. Looking at the plate that was full just fifteen minutes ago, she saw nothing but crumbs. Looking up, she noticed Harry's innocent grin, his cheeks puffed up full of bread, cheese, lettuce, and ham. Eyes twinkling, she shook her head and said sternly, "Finish chewing and drink your milk. We want to be up at the school by this afternoon."
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