It had been two days, but it felt like a grand total of two minutes as time seemed to evaporate. Severus watched Madeline gently place Eileen, who was peacefully asleep as if nothing out of the ordinary had ever happened to her, in a white bassinet. He loved her apartment, he always had. The decorations were ancient tapestries and scrolls with medieval incantations stitched into the cloth or painted by thousand year old Chinese mages. It was always dim with the same fragrant smell that her classroom possessed. There was also a worn leather mixture in the air from the shelf of sacks that held complete skeletons of various creatures; he knew she animated them on occasion just to make sure she still could.
He cleared his throat to break the silence, and then went on to say, “As always, not a moment’s rest. Tomorrow I’ll return to England.”
Though she had placed Eileen into the cradle several seconds ago she still leaned over the sleeping child. She fiddled absentmindedly with the blankets around the baby. Her dark hair was pulled back into a series of braids; she had since cleaned up and mostly recovered from death. Her color had returned, but she still looked a bit ill from the weeks of worry and tire that had hung like a dark cloud over her. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes before she leaned deeper into the bassinet and adjusted the pink blanket again.
It was there, like crystal quartz pasted to her cheek, a clear bubble of shiny water. And then Madeline nodded stiffly.
Severus wrinkled his brow at her. He thought for a moment she might turn on him, she looked quite tense – like she’d break, again.
Finally she looked over to him, in a stony hollow sort of expression. The tear had vanished and she shook her head at him. “I can’t do it anymore Severus. I can’t,” she said evenly.
“What do you mean? I don’t understand your purpose?” He hissed lowly.
“I won’t. I’m sorry.” She raised her chin at him. “You will take me with you, if you will not stay here with me.” There was no other alternative in Madeline’s mind, and it was clear in her words; she meant not to leave him, she meant (rather) the opposite. Severus stared at her, he had not expected this day to come; he knew that she wanted them to be closer – geographically – however, things were so complicated. “I’m tired of pretending like this is normal. I know what you’ll say, ‘but it’s not safe’…and I’ll tell you what I always do, ‘it’s never safe’.” A wary smiled played on her face, “And there was a time, only weeks ago that I agreed with you about safety. I feared for our children and their lives; but Severus,” she went to him, and with true conviction she went on, “I’ve learned they aren’t safe here either. I’ve seen enough death to last a lifetime. I know how complicated it is for you but is this not worth it?”
“Your mother is no longer a threat.”
“Yes, that much is clear.” Madeline nodded, “She will live forever behind some sort of bars, we’ll see to that, whether it be the padded sort or the criminal sort. But who’s to say the same won’t happen again through some other medium. Severus…”
“Madeline,” he began.
As she could tell by his tone and inflection where he was going she cut him off. Her face was placid and her voice was crisp, precise, and emotionless, “Severus, I’ll volunteer for the assistance offered through the Academy to the Ministry’s cause.”
He could feel his jaw go tense but he knew there was no fighting this, and he went on spitefully anyhow, “You’ll complicate things for me.”
“Forgive me but you agreed to those complications seven years ago when you made a promise to me.”
She took a step nearer to him. He was still frowning, as he often did, when he reached out and placed his hands on her shoulders. He pulled her close, “It will be better, as I’m sure you’re aware and are using to your advantage now, to choose where you’ll go rather than be assigned by someone.”
“You must understand that you are jumping into a war and you know the circumstances surrounding me. You must also understand that though we are closer in miles we still can not flaunt our union; soon things will be different, the end is near. And, since I have the advantage of intimate knowledge of my own war, will you do as I say when you relocate?”
She looked up to him, “Absolutely.”
Little had changed in the last month at Number Twelve Grimmauld Place. It was storming, thunder cracked and lighting lit the night sky in jagged little spears of white. Ron stumbled down the stairs. Harry had locked himself in one of the upstairs rooms for a few days now and Ron wondered if he would come out even when Hermione arrived. Things were bleak.
He pulled the door open and before he could invite the individual in he was being pushed to the side.
“Forgive me,” she said pulling her cloak off and shaking the rain from it in the doorway.
“Um?” Ron looked at the woman he didn’t recognize awkwardly as she reached over and closed the door. He stared at her, she was younger than he expected when she removed her cloak.
“Is Minerva McGonagall here?” She asked.
“Who are you?” Ron questioned.
“Madeline?” McGonagall’s voice resonated through the atrium in sharp shock.
Ron peeked over his shoulder at McGonagall standing next to his mother and father. “Company,” he smiled weakly.
“Forgive my intrusion,” she said to Ron glancing at him briefly. He was taller than her with his gangly long legs. “My name is Madeline Alcott.”
“What are you doing here?” McGonagall asked.
“I’ve come with the intention to accept your offered proposal upon my last visit. I wish to assist you.”
“Come in,” she said. “Mr. Weasley please find Madeline a towel and see if a fire’s been made in the living room.”
Ron nodded and disappeared as McGonagall brought Madeline into the kitchen with Molly and Arthur following closely behind.
“What’s made you change your mind?”
“I learned that you were not mistaken in the events around Albus. I was offered the option to serve your cause through my own government, but I thought that here with you things might be more productive as you attack the source rather than go through channels.”
“You found him then?” McGonagall asked.
“No, but I need no further explanation after speaking with various persons surrounding the death.”
“Where are your children?”
Madeline accepted an offered cup of tea, “They are with my father across town. He moved here with me; he had nothing back in the States except my brother and me. There was a bit of trouble on the home front and he needed a brief escape from the memories for little while. So, he came with me – for now.”
“I see,” McGonagall nodded. She was still staring at Madeline skeptically. There was doubt, it was clear but McGonagall knew the numbers of the Order were falling while Voldemort’s group was increasing. She had little choice, Madeline could be a powerful ally in this fight if it came down to the Dark Arts; she could also be a dangerous enemy if she was turned away. With the questions still lingering about Madeline’s allegiances, but the fear of having her against them, McGonagall got an idea. “Excellent, I still hold; we can certainly use a person of your talents.” To keep a watchful eye on the new member of the Order McGonagall knew just where to keep her, “But as to keep from questions about your presence among us you we will need you to serve a position as well.”
“Like a job in the professional sense?” Madeline asked.
“By all means,” Madeline nodded.
“Excellent. Hogwarts needs a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor and with your experience as a teacher it will be quite fitting, provided Hogwarts will open next term.”
“Me? Defense Against the Dark Arts? Minerva I don’t think that would be appropriate. I know nothing of defending against the Dark Arts. Perhaps Potions, I am well versed in potion making – you know my base knowledge is in Alchemy as all students in the Academy are.”
“We have a Potions Master,” McGonagall presented a slim smile. “You will be a fine Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher as you have an intimate knowledge of the Dark Arts – what better person to teach against them?”
Madeline remained composed and proper as she sipped her tea. She thought on it for some time. Finally she placed her cup to the side and looked at the faces of Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, and then to Minerva, “Very well, I accept.”
Well this is it, the end of this piece. Thank you for reading this piece and staying with me through this whole thing, I really appreciate it. I know it’s left kind of open; just in case I feel like revisiting it…just in case. :-)
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