|Beth H (bethbethbeth) wrote in hp_beholder,|
@ 2009-05-07 12:03:00
|Entry tags:||beholder 2009, femslash, fic, minerva mcgonagall, septima vector|
FIC: "Two" for magnetic_pole
Pairings: Minerva McGonagall/Septima Vector
Word Count: 1348
Summary: There is a week until professors return, and Hogwarts will not wake.
Author's Notes: Many many thanks to V, as ever.
She tiptoes quiet as a cat through the halls, nails clicking against stone, ears twitching in search of sound.
There is nothing to hear.
No students; no professors; no whispering portraits; no creaking staircases.
New stone glows clean and unweathered in the moonlight. The edges will begin to blend after a winter, but it has been a week, and it stands out like a new scar on pale skin.
Hogwarts is old, and it is tired.
For the first time in two thousand years, Hogwarts sleeps, its magic lying dormant deep within the stone. It curls in on itself, furling its towers, shying from the cold edges of stone carved by those without Salazar's artist hands and silver tongue, which told the stone what it meant to be a castle, what it meant to be proud, and to protect.
Cat is the only way it is navigable. Staircases are frozen halfway between landings. Doors are tightly closed. Ravenclaw tower is utterly unaccessable, either by normal means or any of the secret ways only the rats and the cats know.
There are six days until professors return, and two weeks until the students, and the tabby cat steps delicately, scenting the air and rubbing against the walls, singing a cat-purr song of secret attic lofts that let in the afternoon sun, stalking mice between the pipes in the walls, solitary adventure, and a little girl who, told for the very first time that she has done well, begins to think of the stone walls as home.
There are five days until professors return, and the cat lashes her tail and yowls her displeasure and sharpens her claws on the very same curtains of the very same window seat where a young woman once swore that she would become an animagus, just to show them all that they were wrong, that she could master anything, even twice-damned Transfiguration.
There are four days until professors return, and she checks and double-checks every corner and cranny and statue with the patience of a woman who has spent forty-two years telling every single student that they are capable.
Hogwarts stirs, remembering the calloused hands and soft heart of Helga, who shaped stone to fit together, and whispered of belonging, and family, and the importance of home.
There are three days until professors return, and the cat sits primly in the center of the headmaster's desk, washing her paw in a show of unconcern. But the tip of her tail slaps against the wood, and her ears pivot towards the portraits on the wall, from which men and women stare out blankly, unblinking, unnerving.
A whir, a click, and a complex knot of silver wires sitting on a side table lets out a loud bang, followed by a querulous sort of whistle. There is a thump as the cat, tail bristling, hits the floor.
The whistle peters out dejectedly, and the cat is a woman. She is rumpled and filthy, her clothing stiff with dried saliva. She has been a cat for three days.
A few quick cleaning and freshening spells; they are all she has time for. There is somebody approaching, and they are unexpected and unwelcome, because Hogwarts is not ready. Because she is ashamed that she has not yet solved the problem. Because she is not yet prepared to be in charge.
A woman walks toward the castle. She is graceful and poised and she counts her steps. 122 steps from the gate to the archway: five: instability. Uncertainty. 38 steps through the courtyard: two: cooperation. Balance. Solved through, or caused by? This is the question the numbers do not answer. She knows she will be up late with her charts.
She is uncowed by Hogwarts' dark bulk. She has come for reasons of her own, and she has no room in her heart for fear.
The women meet in the front hall, one with her copper hair combed smooth and straight, the other with grey wisps escaping haphazardly from her dark bun. The quiet of the hall is now tinged with the awkwardness of situations reversed, and memories that were suppressed swarm and spill into the air. They have the awkward greetings of women whose relationship is defined by glances exchanged on the darkest days of their lives, by eyebrows raised in unison, by the shared load of comforting frightened children and passing word on how to subvert instructions or minimize damage. They have never been close; they have never really been friends.
Hogwarts dreams of bodies lying side by side in the great hall, of students living in fear and screaming in pain and dying. Stone creaks ominously, and the women separate quickly.
There are two days until professors return, and the bun is neat and smooth, and the copper hair is twisted up with a quill that has left inkstains on its bearer's nose, and the awkwardness is gone, replaced with cordiality which is friendly, if a bit forced. The first woman walks the halls once more, human this time, looking for something she may have missed. The second squints against the candlelit darkness, adding numbers and consulting charts. She finds pain, and confusion, and fear. There are no answers in the numbers.
Hogwarts remembers Rowena's cool fingers which traced letters and runes onto rock, words that taught of the necessity of knowledge, of intelligence, of the importance of the mind.
There is one day until professors return, and the women linger over tea. They do not know what else to do. There is meaningless smalltalk, and meaningful silence, and the morning passes surprisingly quickly. They open musty classrooms and wrestle open windows that will not respond to spells. They find a long ladder in the groundskeeper's toolshed which they transfigure into a perilous but serviceable walkway with spindly railings which just barely reaches between the staircase which is frozen in midair and the entrance to Ravenclaw tower. They check the impeccably clean floor of the Great Hall once last time for unscrubbed bloodstains.
They take dinner in the Headmistress's quarters, and the house-elves bring port and stoke the fire. One leans over to tuck a loose strand of hair behind the other's ear (one: the individual, the loner, but the hair looked out of place and wrong, so she pays it little mind, though perhaps it is only hope that says so) and everything changes.
One luxuriates, touches and licks and takes her time, stretches out and curls around. She explores and discovers and teases and tests. The other has single-minded determination. She has done her research, but has yet to learn patience or finesse. She finds herself counting: four kisses: stability; six bite marks on her thigh: family; three involuntary gasps: wholeness; nine firm tongue-strokes (nine letters in please, yes): completion.
Hogwarts remembers the firm hands of Godric, pressed against the stone walls, as he told the rock, above all else, to love.
It is the day professors return, and she slips from bed, her hair tumbling grey around her shoulders. In her sitting room, she leans against the cool stone walls and weeps for the dead, for her failure, for her fear, for the students who will return to a school that is broken, for the paradox in her bed: the impossibility of moving forward, the need to do so nevertheless.
Hogwarts feels Minerva's hands, damp with tears, and learns to mourn. Stone hums its sorrow, unearthly deep, the sound of bagpipes and phoenix song and the ends of the earth, the failure to protect, the shattering of family, the teaching of lies, the dark days of hatred. It wails its failure, groans its anguish, screams its fury.
In the next room, Septima clutches the bedsheets, pale and afraid and confused with sleep, until the noise quiets. She finds Minerva sitting on the floor, quiet and still and tearstained, her back against the wall. Septima sits beside her, but they do not hold each other, or kiss, or even touch. They listen to Hogwarts, which is singing from deep in its stones, like whale song.
There is the quiet report of wood snapping, a precarious walkway reduced to kindling as a distant staircase grinds into motion.