Chapter Fifteen: Memories of the Heart
~ * December 12, 1939 * ~
"You're not going."
"I AM!" shouted a petite dark-haired witch. "Why is that so hard for you to accept? I am not sitting around at home waiting to hear from others that the people I love are dead and dying in some country hundreds of miles away from me! You know you can't talk me out of this, Kael. I want to do this - I need to do this."
"France is hardly hundreds of miles away, Annie," came the smooth reply. The speaker was a young man in his early twenties. Thick brown- auburn hair fell into his eyes as he glared at the furious witch before him. She was beautiful even when she was mad, he thought, taking in her angrily flushed cheeks and flashing black eyes. Cutting off a biting reply, he added, "And war is not for women - I know. Stay home, stay here."
"War is not for women," she spat, clearly not convinced, "What would you have me do? Knit? Sew? Raise a bloody family? I refuse to-"
"You cannot do this, Minerva!" he yelled. He had a mild temper, but explosive when pushed far enough. "Think of your future! What will be gained if you die on the battlefield?"
"I will not stay idle in safety while there is work to be done. I can help," she shot back, "I'm a trained medi-witch."
"So this is all about your pride is it?"
"That's not true and you know it," she snapped.
The couple stood in a tense silence for moments on end. They currently stood in the small living room of a humble apartment over a bakery in the middle of Bristol. The apartment itself was practically bare, with a few suitcases standing by the door. The woman stood next to a small, round table with a piece of muggle paper and a pen lying forgotten upon it. The man stood before a closed door that had been slammed shut no more than ten minutes before.
They made a handsome couple - everyone said so. The woman's perfect porcelain complexion was enough to make any man fall for her, given that they ignored the completely stubborn set of her chin. Irises the color of the black midnight sky accented a delicate nose and smooth rosy lips. She was not a tall woman, standing just under five feet five inches, but gave the impression of being much bigger than she was. Willowy limbs were covered in a dark green muggle military uniform and a white hat sat on her head, contrasting nicely with the ebony hair pulled back into a bun at the nape of her neck. Her elegant hands were clenched into angry fists as she stared defiantly at the man next to the door to her apartment. The man was tall, very tall, standing at six feet, with a muscular body from training in the military. He leaned on a sturdy wooden cane, favoring his left leg, which had been hit at some point during the beginning of the war. He had a strong face, with a classical square jaw, royal nose, and full lips. He was glaring stubbornly at the witch beside the table. Both were strong willed, and, knowing that a staring contest would get them nowhere, she broke the silence.
"It's my duty, Kael," she said stiffly, but in a much calmer voice than before, "It's my duty and I will not shrink from it."
He narrowed his eyes as he saw the firm resolve settle in hers. "Fine," he said in a deadly whisper, "Go and throw yourself into harm's way. Go give your aid to those who won't even remember you in a few year's time. Go give yourself up to nightmares that will never leave you."
"It's not like that," she replied, her voice only barely managing not to quaver. "I can help and I am going to. Nothing you say is going to hold me back."
"Do you even care what other people will think?!" he exploded for a second time. "A woman going off into battle - flying away from her husband and her life to give an unwelcome helping hand."
"I don't recall being married," she snapped.
"Well maybe I was going to ask you!" he yelled "Maybe I wasted my whole life waiting for a woman who can't see the right path when it's lying down at her feet!"
"So that's it then?" she asked quietly, blinking back furious tears. "If I go, you won't wait?"
"Annie," he said, coming forward to hold her. Long ago she had told him that she hated the name "Minnie" and so he adopted her middle name for his own use. Usually the use of his nickname for her would coax a smile out of the stern witch, but not this time. "Annie, I love you. I always will. Be my wife. Give up this hero's quest and raise our family. Leave the war to someone else, you don't know what you were about to get yourself into. This isn't our fight."
She stiffened and drew away from him, meeting his eyes, and felt her anger flare up again when she saw the condescending look on his face.
"It is our war," she replied steadily, stepping away from him. "Grindewald is gaining more and more supporters by the day. He's allied himself with that Adolf Hitler and they are going to rip the world apart."
She pulled her wand out of the sleeve of her overcoat and pointed it at the suitcase beside the door, transforming it into a small bag and summoning it to her. Slinging it over her shoulder, she turned and met his now hard hazel eyes.
"Minerva, I swear if you walk out that door, I will never speak to you again."
Her eyes lost their anger then, and sorrow replaced it. She walked over to him and flung her arms around his neck. He enveloped her in a strong hug and eased his lips over her trembling ones. His strong right arm bound her to him tightly, his left still supporting his weight on the cane. He deepened the kiss, murmuring against her lips sweet nothings that barely registered in her mind. Minerva savored this kiss, believing deep down that it would be their last. Finally, she broke the kiss, breathless as she pulled away from him. Without meeting his eyes, she bolted out the door and left him behind, going to fight for a cause that was so much bigger than their love.
The image wrinkled and flowed away like water.
The next scene showed the same young woman bustling around a hospital tent. Her light, muddy green field uniform was covered in crimson blood. Her apron was covered in red with only small patches of white depicting its original color. She wore soft black boots covered in blood, but no one could tell that as they were so dark to begin with. One of the heaviest beatings the allied forces had taken happened that morning at dawn, and now the hospital tents were filled to the brim with the injured, dead, and dying. A hardened old soldier was striding around the tent, finding the dead and having them removed to make room for more patients. It was an hour after noon, and the attacks weren't getting any lighter. Dozens and dozens of soldiers came screaming through the tent flap in a steady, unyielding torrent of blood and agony.
It was the beginning of her second year in the field, and she had long ago proved that she could handle herself very well in a crisis. Being a woman, the commanding officers refused to allow her to travel with attacking troops, but eventually gave her a station just inside the defenses, near the front, where she tended to the most grievously injured from the battle.
By the end of the day, she was thoroughly exhausted. That day had been one of the worst she had ever seen, and promised not to be the last. As she collapsed onto a vacant cot, she tried to still her spinning mind. She almost didn't register someone calling her name.
"Nurse McGonagall? Nurse McGonagall!"
"What is it?" she answered wearily.
"A letter came for you last night," the very young man said, passing a mud-encrusted envelope to her and added in an undertone, "This one arrived this morning by owl," and passed a second mud-covered letter to her. Nodding her thanks as he turned and left, Minerva opened the first letter that had presumably arrived via muggle means. She recognized the handwriting immediately.
I don't know how to tell you this, but Kael is very, very sick. The muggle doctors have no idea what it is, but your friend, Poppy, thinks it's some type of magical disease. She's been trying to find out what it is, but hasn't come up with anything so far. He's getting worse everyday. Even though I know you're not together anymore, you still mean great deal to him. Do what you will, and know that everyone over here is praying for your eventual safe return.
Adele Reigns, Kael's mother, had always been close to Minerva, even though she was a muggle and did not understand the magical world, hence, her distrust in the owl post. Shaking, Minerva folded the letter back up and reached for the most recent, dreading what it might say. Inside the envelope were two letters. One was sealed and appeared to have something enclosed inside it. The other was folded once in half, clearly meant to be read first.
He's gone. He wanted you to have this. Read the letter.
Unable, or perhaps refusing, to accept or believe the contents of the letter, she viciously thrust them into her pocket and got up. She still had work to do, and no time to dwell on something that could not be helped or fixed.
Again, the scene shimmered.
It was dusk, the sun setting behind the huge manor at the base of a small hill. A lone weeping willow stood at the peak of the hill, overshadowing a dark granite gravestone. A weary witch trudged up the slope and sank to her knees before the headstone. Trembling, she traced the simple words carved into the granite.
Lt. Kael Aiden Reigns
No. 9 Squadron, British RAF
March 4, 1915 - April 14, 1941
Loving Son, Brother, and Friend
Minerva had put this moment off for four long years. She would have put it off longer and stayed with the army, drowning out her own sorrows with her call to duty. She held a slightly crumpled letter in her clenched right hand. Four years after being delivered, the seal remained unbroken. Steeling herself, she opened the letter and almost fainted as a small round object fell out. With a violently shaking hand, she picked the ring up and examined it. It was a beautiful, dainty, white gold band, crowned with two small opals flanking an elegant diamond. Holding the ring and the letter in one hand as she clapped the other over her trembling mouth, she began to read.
When I returned we rejoiced, and when you left I cried. You were, are, and always will be everything in my life to the day I die. I didn't mean the things I said to you that day. I thought I would have time after you came back to tell you the truth, but as it's turned out, I will not be able to do so. I love you so much, bebay. This ring is for you. I was going to ask you to marry me when you came back, and after I finished groveling.
I know why you went, and I understand, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. However, I am very proud of you - for doing everything right, even when I pressured you to do otherwise. There is no one I would rather have spent my life loving than you. You are the personification of perfection, at least you are in my eyes and should be in everyone else's. My heart will be yours forever.
Even so, I do not want you to dwell on our past and what could have been. Move on, Annie, my love. Tuck me away in the farthest corner of your heart and move on. There will be other men who love you as much as I have. Give them a chance, bebay. You have a long, wonderful life before you, and, as you always used to say, it does no good to dwell on the past. Keep this ring and remember me. Move on, live well. I love you.
With all of my heart,
'Gone,' she thought numbly, 'He's dead.' With the last admittance, she dissolved into great heaving sobs that had been repressed for the last four years of her life. Incomprehensible cries of sorrow echoed over the landscape as the witch crumpled against the stone. Only one word made sense.
Minerva woke at two thirty to her own sobs, tears streaming down her cheeks. Burying her face in her pillow, she cried herself back to a dreamless sleep. Just before she lost herself to the bliss of sleep, she felt a small figure climb into bed to curl up beside her. Opening one puffy eye, she saw a pair of worried green eyes gazing up at her. Sniffing, she pulled him closer and whispered, "It was just a nightmare, dearest. Come under the covers and go back to sleep."
Four unbroken hours of sleep later, Minerva pried one eye open. Despite her fitful memories keeping her up for half the night, she was surprisingly well-rested. She shook the peacefully sleeping form beside her and grinned as he mumbled, "What time s'it?"
"It's time to wake up, Harry," she answered. When he refused to move, she reverted back to an old way of waking him.
"MA!" he yelled between bouts of uncontrollable laughter, "STOP!" she tickled him mercilessly until she was sure he wouldn't go back to sleep.
"Come on then, you," she said, dragging him out of bed and leading him across the hall to the bathroom. This bathroom was more ordinary than the luxurious one off the master bedroom, with plain tiled walls and a smooth limestone floor. She left Harry alone to begin preparing for the day as she trudged back to her own bathroom. Its majesty was lost on Minerva today, as she glared at her puffy face in the mirror.
"You look a wreck, dear," the mirror commented cynically.
Shaking her head, she was reminded again of another reason to kill Amanda - she _hated_ magical mirrors. They served absolutely no purpose other than to bring down one's self esteem. Grabbing a soft gold washcloth hanging beside the sink, she promptly washed her face with hot, then cold water. The swelling around her eyes began to go down immediately and she nodded in approval.
Fifteen minutes later (she was a very fast mover in the morning), she was helping Harry dress, slipping a forest green sweater over his head to go with his khaki pants and dark brown shoes. Stepping back, she admired her work. He looked adorable in those cloths, even as he scratched an itch on the back of his neck.
"Ma, look, we match today!" he exclaimed, noting her tartan green robes and his own green shirt.
"I suppose we do!" she replied. Taking his hand, they walked out of the room and to the Great Hall for breakfast. She was silent for most of breakfast, speaking only when spoken to and eating very little. After that, Minerva left for her classes and Harry remained with Albus.
The boy had not been able to get over the sight of his mother in tears. He could barely remember the last time he had seen her cry like that. He frowned, now that he thought about it, he'd never seen her cry like that, ever. There were a few occasions - he could count on one hand - when silent tears had fallen down her face, but he had never ever seen her reduced to heart-wrenching sobs.
The wise old headmaster noticed his pensive expression and asked, "What's wrong, Harry?"
He turned to the headmaster cautiously, not knowing whether to tell him or not. "Uncle Albus, can you keep a secret?" he asked very seriously.
"I won't breath a word to anyone," the headmaster replied twinkling. He didn't know what top secret information the boy was about to tell him, and, thinking it was probably something that any little boy would deem a secret - a prank, an accident, etc. Leaning down as Harry leaned over, he almost gasped when the boy told him.
"Ma cried last night."
Albus sat stunned for a while, staring at Harry in disbelief before asking, "What do you mean?"
"She had a nightmare and she woke up crying - I heard her all the way from my room," he explained in a hushed voice.
Albus was not so surprised about the boy hearing something from Minerva's room, she insisted on leaving all of the doors open, but was shocked at the fact that she had cried, over a nightmare.
"Was she alright this morning?" he wanted to know.
"I think so," the boy answered, unsure, "She didn't say anything about it, though." After a short pause, Harry added, "I think it had something to do with somebody named Kael."
The headmaster's head snapped up to look the boy in the eye and saw nothing but innocent truth. Sighing, he sat back and rubbed his eyes wearily. "Kael," he thought, "Kael Reigns."
After assuring Harry that his mother would be all right, and that it was nothing to worry about, the headmaster walked him to his science class with Professor Sprout, promising to pick him up from Professor Snape's dungeons in two hours. That done, the man walked out to the school grounds, rather than going up to his office to reminisce about the boy that had stolen his deputy's heart all those long years ago.
Kael Reigns was a third year Gryffindor when Minerva began her first year at Hogwarts. They met properly during her second year, when she became a chaser for the Gyrffindor Quidditch team. He was the keeper - strong, muscular, handsome and perfect in the eyes of the majority of the female population. He'd had an ill-concealed crush on Minerva since she was in fourth year, as Albus remembered, but didn't muster up the courage to tell her so until nearly two years later, a month before he graduated. Their relationship had started out light and fluffy as all teenage relationships do, and it only grew stronger as the years passed. They'd had their shared of fights, a particularly nasty one when their relationship was still young, in the summer after Minerva's sixth year that caused them to split up for a while, but it was resolved eventually, and he was there to cheer for her during her graduation.
Albus shook his head, amazed that he remembered all of this in such detail. Kael had gone off the join the military directly after his graduation. He returned to England shortly after the war began, being one of the first sent home injured, but alive. A few months later, Minerva left for the war. Two years after that, he died.
Minerva lived in a state of denial for four years following the event, never truly coming to terms with his death until she herself returned after the war. She would have stayed with the army and trained for the next war, if not for her brothers' deaths. Her parents had commanded her to come home, and she was honorably discharged from service with the army. She returned a sergeant, with high honors for her medical work in the field.
Albus did not know the intricacies of their relationship, nor did he venture a guess as to what the war did to them. He was curious to find out what could have prompted the sudden remembrance of the man. 'It could have been any number of things,' he reasoned, 'They both went to school here, came back to visit during Quidditch season, they planned to send their children here,' the list went on and on. He froze suddenly, thinking, 'What if it's stress? What if teaching is too much for her?' Abruptly, he stood, having taken a seat at the edge of the lake, and resolved to check up on Minerva later on in the day.
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