Link: June Week
Characters: Minerva McGonagall, Albus Dumbledore, Tom Riddle
Summary: Opening the Chamber of Secrets is not the only crime Tom Riddle commits as a Hogwarts student. But can young Minerva McGonagall prove his guilt? Also features Dumbledore and others. Complete.
Prompt: Image; a copy of the prompt pic is embedded in the story
Word count: ~51,041
Warnings: See below
Spoilers (Highlight to read): Implied rape
This fic (from 2002) is an angsty but sensitive coming-of-age story for Minerva McGonagall with detailed and insightful charactarisations, an engaging plot and exciting action scenes. Tom Riddle is a menacing presence here, and it’s clear that he’s on the path to becoming Voldemort while still very much an adolescent boy. There are some engaging and nicely drawn original characters, too, including Minerva’s owl! Another nice touch is the inclusion of a young Hagrid just after his expulsion from Hogwarts; like Tom, Hagrid is recognisably himself as an adolescent, without being a caricature.
Hagrid, for his part, had looked like he was anticipating an evening of torturous boredom all the way from Hogwarts, but was transfixed by the music now that he was actually here. Unfortunately, all the words were in Latin, which was a mystery to him beyond the bit he knew from the spells he had learned during his abortive career as a student. Every minute or two, he leaned down to stage-whisper “What’re they singin’ abou’ now?” into Minerva’s ear. His voice had changed over the last year, descending to bass tones so deep that the pew vibrated slightly each time he spoke. The Muggles sitting closest to them kept looking around, sure they’d heard or felt something, but perplexed at their inability to locate it.
At last Minerva hissed “Hagrid – sshhh! I’ll tell you all about it later, I promise. Just listen.” He obeyed, and she leaned back against the pew, wincing a little and cradling her left arm with her right. It was healing much more slowly than any of her other injuries had – it still ached when she was cold or tired, and she was both at the moment. All she wanted was to lie down in some dark, warm, quiet place and rest till it felt better. Instead, here she was, sitting on a hard wooden bench with a frigid draft from the rear doors of the cathedral blowing across her. She was beginning to wish she hadn’t come. She was just worn out.
That, she realized as the choir moved into a recitative section of the piece, was her problem in general these days: fatigue. Physical fatigue from late nights and hours of prowling around the halls. Mental fatigue from puzzling over Tom’s actions and looking for new avenues of investigation while simultaneously trying to fulfill her duties to her students. Emotional fatigue from keeping the whole problem to herself. For the first time, she seriously considered letting it all go – just leaving the past in the past and trying to move ahead with her life. That was what Hagrid had advised her to do. The strategy seemed to have worked for him.
She peeked sidelong at his face, incongruous in its combination of size and smooth youthfulness. He’d been publicly humiliated, disgraced, had his entire future ripped away, but had still managed to carry on, even to be happy.
And she – her life had been altered, and not for the better, but what had she really lost?
What Tom had done was a terrible thing, but it was ultimately a small thing. He might have touched her, but he couldn’t take anything away from her. Not unless she let him. She’d been dreaming of justice all these months, but there would be no justice if she lost herself in the process of winning it.
“Et in terra pax,” sang the choir. Peace on earth. That was a fine ambition, thought Minerva, but a lofty one. She’d settle for inner peace.
She stole another glance, this time in the other direction, toward Dumbledore. As if he could feel her gaze on him, he opened his eyes for a moment and smiled at her with all the old, uncomplicated affection she remembered from a few years ago, when she was his student and he was her teacher and there were no secrets or misunderstandings between them. The tenderness of that expression solidified her decision.
I’m going to be different, she promised him silently. I’m going to try to forget. And then – then maybe you and I can go back to the way things were.