After the initial shock of opening the box, Minerva decided to spend the remainder of her summer putting everything into order with her own belongings. It was a surprisingly therapeutic process; it helped her to take her mind away from problems in the present and also to reflect on moments from her past. There was a collection of essays and assignments from her own days at Hogwarts, which she found amusement in reading. How young she had been, how bright she thought she had been, how foolish she now knew she was.
A surprising treasure was a box of her parents’ belongings, no doubt given to her by her mother and forgotten about a long time ago. Inside the box was a set of photos, most likely reprints of originals. A framed copy of her parents on their wedding day, few of the trio when Minerva was a young girl, and the last picture of the family before her departure on the world tour. Of these, she only kept the last one, which she had framed and added it to her nightstand with her other prized photographs. Also inside the box were a few pieces of her mother’s jewelry collection: a bracelet, a locket, and a pair of earrings. The earrings and bracelet she put aside to donate or sell; they weren’t her style. The necklace, however, she puzzled over for a minute before undoing the clasp. Inside was a lock of hair, but Minerva had no way of knowing whom it belonged to. It could have been her own, or also her grandmother’s, or even her mother’s herself. She decided to leave the locket out; it felt comforting in her hands and she liked the idea of having a part of someone (even if it was her former self) next to her heart. The rest of the items in the box went straight to the discard pile; they were of no significance.
There were many boxes of clothes, which Minerva found surprising. She had never been a superficial or fashionable woman, yet she had accumulated quite a large number of pieces from various decades. Most of these she decided to donate. There were also many books, which she decided to keep out of comfort more than anything else.
Minerva busied herself with the task at hand, rather than worrying over the daily reports from the newspaper and visitors. Harry Potter was still on the run, and she knew that Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger were undoubtedly with him. Wherever they were, they seemed to be doing a fine job of staying under cover and she couldn’t help but feel a bit proud of that. They were Gryffindors, after all. Muggle-borns were now required to “register” with the Ministry, the idea of which made her stomach roll. Remus was more depressed than ever, something she had tried to talk to him about during his last visit. However, he had left in a hurry and hadn’t been back since.
Augusta had stopped by recently, but had also not stayed long. Minerva knew that she had wanted to talk about the box and its contents, but no matter how much of a Gryffindor she was she had no courage to do so. She had suppressed memories for far too long to have them all rush back at once. Also, a new feeling had taken root since the day she had tea with her old friend. A bitter jealousy had blossomed from a seed that Minerva didn’t know she possessed. There had been pain and heartache for a long time when it came to her feelings about Augusta, but never envy. Minerva desperately tried to control and check her emotions; she knew that they would only worsen with the coming school year. However, nothing that she did seemed to help her, and finally she considered opening the box itself.
Ever since the day Augusta had given her the gift, Minerva’s dreams had been haunted by its contents. Memories swirled and mingled through her dreams, and she found herself waking up in a cold sweat and short of breath. On one of the last days before she was required to return to Hogwarts, she took it as a sign that she needed to confront the box when she tackled the last trunk from her attic. Inside she found an astonishing array of souvenirs: carefully folded flags, glass figurines, a Venetian mask, pottery pieces, and even a few Christmas tree ornaments. That night when she went to bed she brought with her the wooden box, and with the eyes of the girl, the couple, and her family watching, she began to sift through its contents.
September 1, 1944
Today we toured Apollo’s School of Advanced Magical Studies with a group that we met at the Acropolis. They were only a few years older than us and they’re starting their advanced degrees in January. Being here is making me think about continuing my studies rather than just going into the Ministry. Anyway, tomorrow we’re leaving Athens to meet you and I can tell you all about it in person. I wonder if I will reach you before this letter? Anyway, I can’t wait to show you my photos and tell you all about the people we met.
Looking over her own words, Minerva couldn’t believe how young she sounded. Who was this girl that she used to be? This girl, “Young Minerva,” was happily in love, enjoying life and was excited about the future. This girl’s course was not yet planned. Minerva was proud of this young girl, but would the reverse be true? Would her girl-self be proud of the woman she had become? No, but that girl knew no sorrow, she thought bitterly.
Continuing to leaf through the box, she found a few more mementos from her time in Athens. There were letters from Peter, which she set aside, along with a postcard of the Acropolis. Thumbing through a few photos, she laughed aloud when she came across a snapshot of Augusta and an attractive, dark-haired young man. Minerva tried to remember his name… was it Flavio? or maybe Fabio? She recalled that he had been part of the group that toured the school with them, and she also remembered the young couple vanishing into a secluded garden for a part of the evening.
Minerva smiled at her young friend with her arms draped coyly around the boy. During their Hogwarts days, while Minerva spent her evenings in the library with Tom Riddle, Augusta was usually occupying her time with various boyfriends in empty classrooms and deserted corridors. Though naturally bright and incredibly talented, Augusta had never cared much for top marks; she had allowed Minerva to reign in that territory. Minerva sighed as she realized how much had changed in the fifty-odd years since then. Now, Augusta was known as a formidable and stern witch with peculiar eccentricities. But then again, her best friend had suffered just as much sorrow as she had. Minerva sighed and set the photograph aside, not wanting to dwell on hard memories.
September 1, 1944
A year ago today you were starting your final year at school. How much time has changed things. I do hope you keep your head on your shoulders- you were always a bright girl and I would rather not see that change. I hope you enjoyed your time in Athens and look forward to hearing more about your adventures. Though I’m not happy about you changing your course, Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and you shouldn’t miss it if you don’t want to. And the rumor is that it’s sinking, so you might as well go sooner than later! Honestly, the ideas people come up with anymore are insane.
September 10, 1944
Thank you for the letter and postcard. Venice does look beautiful, I’m jealous that I can’t see it myself. Are you excited about going to Egypt soon? I hope you aren’t changing your plans about that because the pyramids are something you cannot miss. Augusta wrote to her mother that you’ve been spending quite a bit of time with a boy. Is this true? Please don’t get carried, you’ll have plenty of time for that when you come home and have a job.
I love and miss you,
Here it was: solid-proof evidence that she had once shared a loving relationship with her parents. Minerva brushed fingertips across the page and glanced quickly at the new photograph on her bedside table. She wondered for a moment if the fall in their relationship began with these letters in her hand, with their knowledge that she had met someone and their warnings to stay on their prescribed course for her. Something in her heart whispered that her thoughts weren’t true, that this wasn’t the end. At the very least Minerva felt confident that the demise of her relationship with her mother didn’t start until years later, when she had made the hardest decision of her life. Memories of darker days and sleepless nights swam in front of her eyes, and she continued to leaf through the letters in the box. As hard as those memories were to reexamine, they were at least happy ones.
There were more letters from her parents to add to the first few. Her father, content that she had reverted back to their original travel plan, chastised her less and less as the weeks passed and bored her more and more with talk of his job at the Ministry. Many years later, Minerva found historical significance in his words as he spoke about the troubles that Grindelwald was causing throughout Europe. As a young woman she had rolled her eyes at his letters revolving around the dark wizard. Back then she had been too wrapped up in her own experiences to dwell much on the subject. Now, however, his words hit home deep in her heart as she compared them to the present state of the country.
As her father grew less worried about her, however, her mother was the opposite. Rereading her letters made Minerva realize how intuitive her mother had been back then. It was clear now that she had sensed there was much more going on in Minerva’s world tour than it seemed in her letters. Perhaps it was a mother’s intuition or maybe an older woman’s knowledge, but Minerva could see now how much her mother had actually known. Simple phrases of caution had darker double meanings as Minerva reread them; but then again that could be attributed to her own knowledge of what would happen next.
Minerva came across a small bunch of photographs that her mother must have sent. They were of her family’s house and the surrounding Scottish countryside. Looking at actual images of the life she could have lived brought a lump to her throat, one faster and larger than the letters had created. She quickly set those aside and looked at the next item.
October 11, 1944
Can we still write even though we’re only a room apart? I think there is something special about a love letter. I’m imagining you blush as you read this over your toast tomorrow morning, and Augusta will be confused and you’ll be even more embarrassed as you try to distract her. I’ll see you in my dreams tonight.
Why was it that she felt herself blush even now? His words were so intimate, so private, she felt as if she were intruding on her younger self. The letter brought back memories of that morning that she had long since forgotten. Minerva had indeed read the letter over toast in the morning, and had not only blushed but had choked on her juice. Augusta, as Peter had predicted, had been very confused and had relentlessly questioned Minerva about the mysterious letter during the length of their day in India. That night, she had finally given in to her friend and passed Augusta the letter as they lay in sleeping bags. Her friend had found the situation amusing and hadn’t stopped teasing her for a week.
As Minerva continued to leaf through the letters, just skimming through their contents (they were mostly from Peter), she recalled how Augusta’s initial amusement had changed to annoyance months later. She remembered how a letter sent to her in China and addressed as “Dear Minnie” had caused Augusta to roll her eyes. She recalled Augusta’s frown as Minerva had turned down an offer for dinner from a boy in Brazil. She remembered how the two best friends had hardly spoken as they looked on the wonders of the Grand Canyon in the United States. With a guilty pang, she remembered how they had finally had a fight in New York when Minerva had suggested finding Peter’s hometown. Just as she had wondered about her parents, she wondered if this had been the beginning of the strained relationship between the old friends. No, she thought to herself. Augusta had been there for her years later when she had felt completely alone and afraid. She had to tell herself that the strain in their relationship was caused by something much more recent, even though those events had started with Peter as well.
The young women in the letters had made amends in time to celebrate the American Independence Day on the beach, one of Minerva’s favorite memories from her trip. There had been such an air of celebration at the time; Muggles were celebrating the coming end of the war, wizards were celebrating the defeat of Grindelwald, the girls were delighted to finally feel like adults, and Minerva had been secretly excited to go home and tell her parents of her future plans, none of which fell in line with theirs’.
Minerva’s eyelids began to droop, and glancing at the clock she was shocked to see that it was already 2 a.m. She looked at the pile of letters on her lap, and another stack still in the box. Those would have to wait for another night. Carefully she put the yellowing pages back into place and placed the box next to the photographs on her nightstand. She took off her glasses and turned the light out. That night, she had no problems falling asleep. And though memories and fragments from the letters twisted through her dreams, they didn’t haunt her or cause nightmares. They were just memories, and she was just beginning to learn how to remember them.
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