Summary: It might not have been as anyone dreamt.
Fandom: Harry Potter
Spoilers: Through Deathly Hallows.
Title, Author and URL of original story: She Sees Harry Potter in Her Dreams, missparker
Notes: Thanks go to magnetic_pole, rufus, and mindabbles for the beta work and advice.
She was dreaming of smooth, warm sand between her toes, long, pale fingers clasped around her wrist and wisps of dark hair against her cheek when a high-pitched scratching startled her awake. Minerva blinked and groped at her bedside table for her glasses and wand. As she righted herself, she saw a familiar owl hovering at the window. Pointing her wand, she muttered a few words causing the window to open wide enough to let him inside. The owl barely deposited its letter before it turned and exited the way it came.
Expect company before dawn with another on his way.
I'll send word when I can.
Minerva had barely put herself to making tea when she heard footsteps and hushed voices at the back door. She swiftly moved to open it, and was greeted by the sight of a bruised-looking Elphias Doge and a pale, shaken James Potter, blood seeping from a cut across his forehead. In between them hovered the even paler, limp form of Lily Evans.
'Why didn't Albus tell me she was pregnant?' she asked, struggling to keep her frustration at bay.
A look of panic swept across Doge's face.
'What was she even -' Thinking better of it, Minerva cut herself off with a wave of her hand. 'Never mind. There's no time. Bring her upstairs, second room on the right. Then go. I'll see to things from there.'
Elphias simply nodded and directed Lily's body into the house and down the hallway. James remained frozen on stairs. She reached out and cupped his face in order to force him to focus on her. 'She is going to be all right, James, but I'll need your help. You'll find a box of potions in the bathroom at the top of the stairs along with a pile of towels. Bring them to me.'
James stepped into the kitchen, shed his cloak and nodded mutely before walking resolutely in the same direction in which Elphias had disappeared moments before.
Hours later Lily still lay sleeping whilst Minerva quieted the baby in her arms. She smiled wryly as she smoothed her finger across an all too familiar nose and chin. Handing him off to James, she whispered, 'Let's hope for my sake he's inherited a measure of Lily's personality. He already looks disturbingly like you.'
James grinned and pulled the blanket tighter. 'Between Sirius and me, Professor, I'm not sure you have a chance.'
It was a day before Lily finally woke and another two before they heard further word from Dumbledore. This time it didn't come in the form of an owl, but in that of a dust-covered Sirius Black. He was thinner than when she had last seen him and his hair longer. He also had at least a week's worth of stubble along his jaw.
'Dumbledore said they were here,' Sirius said by way of introduction, and tried to push past her and into the house.
Minerva ignored his statement and placing a hand on his chest, pushed him back down a step. 'What punishment did you and Mr Potter receive for that incident with Josephine Robards and her puffskein in 5th year?'
Sirius rolled his eyes.
'Don't try my patience, Mr Black.'
He gave her a hard look. 'You forced us attend all of Slughorn's events for the rest of that term as well as the next. Punishment far outweighed the crime if you ask me.'
She nodded curtly. 'I had to find a way to silence the man; he kept going on about how disappointed he was that the two of you never accepted his invitations,' she said as she stepped aside to let him in and indicated down the hall. 'They're in the sitting room. If you're lucky, Harry might even be awake.'
Sirius stared at her. 'Harry?' he asked, choking.
She smiled in response to the grin she saw spread across his face and was pleased to see some colour return to his cheeks.
'Born three nights ago. Looks a bit too much like James, if you ask me, but otherwise is seemingly healthy. Lily is still not fully mobile but she should be up and about in a few days.'
He hugged her and barrelled down the hall. She wasn't entirely certain he had heard anything past the word 'born', but she let him go and went to the kitchen to prepare some food.
Minerva stood in the doorway of her kitchen and watched the three of them. Lily was sitting on the couch, feeding Harry. James sat at her feet, his head resting against her knee, whilst Sirius sat across from them, legs crossed and leaning back on his elbows.
'He'll get a smoother flight out of a Cleansweep,' said James.
Sirius shook his head. 'But the Nimbus'll give him more power.'
'How do you know he'll even like Quidditch?' Lily asked. 'Maybe he'll want to play football instead, or be a chess champion, or sing in a band?'
'Football?' Sirius sputtered and uncrossed his legs. 'That ridiculous Muggle game with one ball and no brooms? You can't be serious.'
The corner of Lily's mouth quirked.
He turned to look at James, who tried to school his face into an expression of blank neutrality. 'Tell me she's not serious, Prongs.'
James failed in his attempt and laughing, tossed a crisp at Sirius' head. Sirius continued on without even a blink.
'I could get behind him being a rock star, though he'd have to be in a Muggle band. Don't know if I could allow him to be in some poncy Wizarding one.'
Lily rolled her eyes. 'Poncy? Coming from you? That's rich.'
Sirius narrowed his eyes at her and threaded his wand through his fingers. 'Good thing you're feeding Harry there, Potter, or I'd have half a mind to spell you a new hair cut.'
Lily returned his stare. 'You wouldn't. If only because you knew I'd have my revenge and it would take a good week to remove.'
Minerva finally stepped into the room and levitated a tea tray in front of her. 'Whilst I hate to disrupt an opportunity to see Mr Black get what's due to him -'
Pantomiming a wound to his chest, Sirius looked at her and pouted. 'I'm hurt, Professor. And here all this time I thought I was your favourite.'
'- but Dumbledore sent an owl with the address of where you're expected. Lupin and Pettigrew will meet you there.'
Sirius righted himself and James stood and gave her a small nod. Taking the tea tray, he settled it on the table next to him and began to pass its contents around.
Later she watched as Lily, leaning against James for support, gave her a small smile and mouthed 'thank you'. She then turned to Sirius, who was cradling Harry against his chest, and said, 'Right behind us, yeah?'
Sirius gave her a fierce nod and kissed her forehead. 'Won't be but a moment.'
She and James then stepped into the fireplace and departed in a flash of green light.
Minerva turned her attention to Sirius as he glanced down at Harry and stepped forward to follow them. He paused and glanced back at her. 'Thank you, Professor, for, you know, helping them.'
Minerva shook her head. 'There may be hope for you and James yet.'
Sirius gave her a lop-sided grin and with a word was gone as well.
That night, once she finally fell asleep, the dreams she had been having of sand and love long gone were replaced by those of a small, dark-haired boy, and other boys who'd unexpectedly grown up into men, and a woman who continually surprised them all.
Can't you see how much better off he'll be, growing up away from all that until he's ready to take it?
Minerva took another sip of her whiskey. Dumbledore's words, an entreaty wrapped carefully in the guise of a coolly reasoned argument, continued to rattle around her head.
It was 2:00 am and she should have been asleep hours ago. Instead she was sitting in front of her fireplace in a dressing gown, a tumbler held precariously in her outstretched hand. The tumbler's contents did more to warm her than the fire. She tried to tell herself that there were a dozen different responses she should have given to those words, a dozen different courses of action she should have taken.
And she knew she was fooling herself; she knew the look in Albus' eyes as he spoke them. His determination had been clear, and there was no derailing Albus Dumbledore once he had chosen a particular course of action.
She took another sip and let her thoughts return to Harry. He had been so much larger than she had imagined he would be, even amongst the layers of blankets and Hagrid's bulk. His face had looked more like that of a boy than of the infant he was just 15 months ago. She, who had grown so accustomed to how much children changed between the ages of 11 and 18, had forgotten how much changes that first year.
Her reaction to him surprised her still. It was such a depth of emotion for a child she barely knew. She had stood there numbly, tears threatening to spill down her face, and watched as Albus placed him on the front step of Lily's family's house. She knew some of those tears had been for Lily and James and the near incomprehensibility of their deaths, but, if she were being honest, the majority were for the child left there on the doorstep.
It was completely irrational.
She finished the last of her whiskey and sliding out of the chair, returned to her bed.
…how much better off he'll be…
As she drifted off to sleep, trying to imagine Harry's life away from the Wizarding world, she clung to those words. She had to hope Albus was right, that her reservations about hiding him away would prove unfounded.
Interlude: Grimmauld Place
Minerva whispered the words and Grimmauld Place loomed into view. Despite being well past one in the morning, a hint of light peaked out from the heavy curtains that hung in the library's large, front-facing window. Eyebrows knitted together, she scurried up the front steps to let herself inside.
The door opened and the night's breeze fluttered the curtains that shrouded the portrait of Walburga. She had to resist the urge to let the door slam shut. Winding Walburga up had always been something of a pastime for Minerva when they were younger and, somehow, the activity hadn't entirely lost its charm, even now that one of them was nothing more than canvas, oil and a series of clever charms.
As she climbed the stairs and rounded the corner, she was greeted by the sound of Sirius' booming laughter, quickly followed by that of Remus and what she thought might be Ron and Harry. She frowned. Whilst she hadn't wanted to wake Remus in order to deliver Albus' message, she found that she was even more loath to disturb whatever it was that could produce that much laughter amongst the four of them.
'James could never quite be trusted in matters involving desserts,' she heard Sirius say. 'Trifle covered everything - the floors, portraits, suits of armour, the two of us. If would have been disgusting had it not been so tasty.'
Minerva stopped herself at the door. Sirius had his back to her and was lounging along the length of one of the old sofas, long legs dangling over the arm. Below him, Harry and Ron sat cross-legged, a pile of photographs lay spread between them, forgotten. Across the room, Remus sat in one of the wing-backed chairs, a grin tugging at the corner of his mouth.
'Trifle?' Ron asked, doubt tingeing his voice.
Sirius absently waved an arm. 'No idea. You'll have to ask that git over there,' he said pointing his chin towards Remus. 'He was the supposed mastermind of this particular adventure.'
Harry turned and stared at Remus, whose grin widened in response.
Sirius snorted. 'Don't let the innocent, professorly exterior fool you. He did more than his fair share of plotting.'
Remus shrugged. 'I was just far better at not getting caught.'
'And how. The minute we heard approaching footsteps, he up and disappeared down the corridor all nimble as you like, leaving your dad and me at the mercy of McGonagall's fury. I thought she was going to burst a blood vessel when she saw us. Took our wands and had Filch bring us mops and towels. Had to clean the entire mess by hand.'
'Your robes smelled of sherry for the better part of a week,' said Remus, wrinkling his nose. 'It caused the dorm to smell like my grandmother's house. It was nauseating.'
Harry laughed, and Ron said, 'Couldn't have been worse than the Poly -'
Harry reached out and slapped his hand over Ron's mouth before he could finish his sentence. Sirius and Remus each raised an eyebrow at them, causing both boys to dissolve in another fit of laughter.
Minerva smiled sadly. It seemed almost unreal to her, the laughter amidst the chaos, and she wished she could let them be. Then, deciding the message could wait, at least until she had a cup of tea, she turned and ducked back down the hall.
In the end, it was the plate of soggy vegetables that caused Minerva to lose any remaining patience she had. After two days of being poked and prodded by what felt like every healer in St Mungo's, ingesting innumerable vile-tasting concoctions, several well-meaning but infuriating visits from Augusta Longbottom, and nightmares of just what Dolores might be getting up to at Hogwarts when left unattended, Minerva decided it was more than any one person could reasonably be expected to take.
She pushed herself up and off the bed, intent on locating the nearest Floo point and returning to Hogwarts. Her only problem was the mere act of standing and pulling on her cloak seemed to drain her of any energy she thought she had. She was just settling herself into one of the chairs when Albus walked into her room.
She smiled wanly. 'Oh, thank -'
She stopped herself as she took in his bent shoulders and solemn expression.
'What -' was all she managed before he cut her off.
'Not here, Minerva.'
'Harry?' she whispered without meaning to.
He shook his head and picked up her carpetbag. 'He survived.' He took her by the elbow and guided her towards the door.
'That's all the boy seems to do,' she whispered, more to herself than anything.
'That's not all,' he said softly.
It wasn't until they were walking out of the Floo at the Three Broomsticks that she realised Albus might be talking about more than just Harry.
After recounting the events that followed her encounter outside Hagrid's three days earlier, Albus offered to escort her back to Hogwarts. When she demurred he simply nodded and offered her carpetbag to her along with a walking stick he transfigured from a twig on the ground outside the pub.
The walk took her longer than expected and was not nearly long enough at the same time. The weather was warm and as she neared the castle she could see several groups of students gathered out by the lake. Under the large beech, four boys sat playing Exploding Snap. She tried not to think of another group of boys who once sat under that same tree.
The scene that greeted her as she stepped into the entrance hall pulled her immediately from her melancholy thoughts. Harry stood in the middle of the room with his wand pointed directly at Draco Malfoy, but all of his attention was focused on Severus Snape. His stance was pure James, but the expression emblazoned across his face was all Sirius.
'A day for seeing ghosts it seems,' she thought as she watched Severus smile cruelly.
'I see there are no longer and points left in the Gryffindor hourglass to take away,' he taunted. 'In that case, Potter, we will simple have to -'
She sighed and gathering her strength, called out, 'Add some more?'
She slept uneasily that night. She dreamt, but each time she woke all that remained were flashes of faces and coloured lights. It was nearly dawn by the time she gave up. She absently dressed and made her way to the top of the Astronomy Tower, where she sat and watched the sun rise over the glittering lake.
'Thought I might find you here.'
Poppy's voice startled her and she twisted around to find that she was levitating a cup of tea towards her. Minerva accepted it gratefully, enjoying the feel of its warmth against her fingers.
Poppy sat down beside her. They sat in silence for a quarter of an hour before Minerva suddenly asked, 'Did I ever tell you Lily gave birth to Harry at my house?'
She shook her head and settled back against the tower wall. Minerva took it as tacit approval to continue. She told her about their arrival, about all of the blood and how she feared Lily would die. She spoke of James and how he didn't falter once, and eventually of Harry and how small and perfect he was.
'They stayed with me for three days, until Dumbledore sent Sirius to bring them to a safer place.' She took the last sip of her tea. 'They had such expectations, the three of them; for themselves and for Harry. And Sirius, I've never seen him quite like he was when he was with Harry. It doesn't much seem fair, does it?'
Poppy smiled sadly. 'Fair? No, but the boy is still alive; that must count for something. As for you,' she said, standing up. 'I think it is time we get you indoors. I have it on good authority that the house-elves are serving kippers this morning.'
Minerva brightened despite herself. 'Kippers?'
Poppy laughed and lightly bumped Minerva's shoulder with her own. 'I reckon that is one love I will never understand.'
Minerva wandered the stalls set up in front of Flourish and Blotts and Obscurus Books, finger tracing along some of the worn spines. She was just picking up one about the transmogrification of sea turtles when, out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of a head of unruly black hair.
Placing the book back in its place, she made her way up the street. 'Hello, Harry,' she called as she weaved between the tables of the café where he sat.
He looked up and gave her a bright smile. 'Professor McGonagall,' he said. 'Or actually, I should say, Headmistress.'
She couldn't help returning his smile. 'No Miss Granger or Mr Weasley?' she asked indicating to the empty chairs at the table.
'I spoke with them a couple days ago. They decided to stay on a bit in Australia, but they're due back in a few weeks.'
Harry then hesitated and looked down at his plate. Poking at his half-eaten sandwich, he said, 'Ron mentioned you offered to have them come back to Hogwarts in September and finish their NEWTs.'
Minerva sat down across the table from him. 'If you wanted, the offer extends to you as well.'
He was silent for a moment and his eyes remained trained on his plate. 'I can't,' he said finally.
He glanced up and gave her a pleading look. She wasn't quite sure understood but held his gaze and asked, 'What are you going to do then?'
'Kingsley's offered to have me come and work as an Auror. I've agreed, on one condition.'
She raised an eyebrow at him.
'I want three months. They need to do without me for three months. Thought I might use some of the money Sirius left me and travel a bit. See something beyond England and Scotland.'
Minerva smiled. 'I think that's a fine idea.'
Harry had been gone less than two weeks when Minerva received the first letter. She hadn't recognised the handwriting on the envelope, so it was a surprise when she opened it and a picture of him, smiling and waving in front of a temple, fell out on to the table.
In Dehli. I don't know if you have ever been here, but if you haven't you should. I've never seen anything like it. They have a small section of town not unlike Diagon Alley, selling all sorts of things. I'm not quite sure what half of them do.
Send word if you can. I'd like to hear about Hogwarts.
Smiling, she slipped the photograph into her pocket and poured herself a second cup of tea.
Over the next two months, the letters kept coming. They became longer as he told her about the places he visited, the people he met and the more-than-occasional mishaps along the way. He often included a photograph or small trinket.
Minerva saved everything he sent, tucked it all into a small box that sat in her office. As the years passed she added the occasional news clipping she found or letters and photographs he sent. It wasn't until she retired that she sorted through its contents. Looking at them, she thought, all told, it might not have been as any one of them had dreamt, but she didn't think their disappointment would be too great.