Disclaimer: McGonagall and Hagrid belong to the great JKR, whom I thank for allowing me to borrow her wonderful characters.
Chapter image by the fantabulous PrincessPotter. Thanks also to AloneintheDark and Courtney and Kirsten, who looked over this chapter for me-you all rock!
Much had changed at Hogwarts in the past eleven years. Although McGonagall was still Headmistress at Hogwarts, and there were many of the same professors, several other things had changed. Perhaps it had been because the war was officially over, or perhaps it had just been because of time, but McGonagall had found it hard to keep up with all the changes.
Today, she was writing the letters to the new students at Hogwarts. It was a warm, sunny, July day, but she was concentrating harder on finishing the letters than enjoying it. McGonagall found it difficult to enjoy anything when there was still work at hand.
“You have been accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,” McGonagall told her quill for what seemed like the thousandth time that day. She watched as it scribbled down the words and couldn’t help sighing. She wished she could invent a spell that would keep the quill writing without her having to dictate things…
“Yer al’right here?” came a familiar voice, and McGonagall turned to see Rubeus Hagrid, the giant gamekeeper at Hogwarts, who also taught Care of Magical Creature’s lessons. Although she didn’t always show it, in truth, McGonagall had always been very fond of Hagrid.
She motioned to her quill pointedly, and Hagrid looked at the list. “Yer still doing that?” he asked her, before glancing at the list again. “There’s a mighty lo’ o’ muggleborns this year, aren’t there?”
McGonagall nodded grimly. There certainly were a lot of muggleborns coming to Hogwarts this year, and she wasn’t sure how she was going to have time to pay visits to all of them. It was custom for McGonagall to go to the muggleborns to explain about Hogwarts after their acceptance letters were sent out. They usually had a lot of questions, but it was going to be difficult to make the trips for all of them.
She looked at Hagrid for a moment. If there had been different circumstances, she would have asked him to do her a favor and pay a visit to one of them, but she doubted he would agree without sobering up first. Hagrid had been the one to break Harry Potter the news that he was a wizard, so many years ago, and she was afraid asking Hagrid to pay a visit to one of the muggleborns would raise too many painful memories.
Twelve years ago, in the June of 1998, Harry Potter had died. The circumstances surrounding his death were only known to a few members of the Wizarding World, including McGonagall herself. Everyone else knew that he had defeated Voldemort, but hadn’t had the strength to survive a Death Eater’s attack.
Since Hagrid and Harry had been so close during Harry’s years at Hogwarts, Hagrid hadn’t taken Harry’s death well at all. It was enough that Dumbledore had died, but Harry had to die too. For weeks, he wouldn’t speak to anyone, staying alone in his hut. When McGonagall visited him, she couldn’t ignore the piles of empty liquor bottles. Fang had been huddled close to his master, as Hagrid slept, apparently unable to face the world.
Although the topic of Harry was pretty much avoided whenever she was in Hagrid’s presence, McGonagall hated thinking about the few times other people had slipped and mentioned Harry in front of Hagrid. His eyes had filled with tears, and McGonagall had guessed that a night of drinking lay ahead for him.
It wasn’t that McGonagall didn’t miss Harry, too. She did, in truth, very much, and for more reasons than anyone knew or suspected. She always had enjoyed being in Harry’s presence. Although he was not her best student, he really had been a kind, ordinary boy. The only thing that set him apart was that he was faced with saving the Wizarding World. Harry was also such a refreshing change from other students she had taught. Where others were proud and bragged about their wealth or fame, Harry had done nothing of the sort, befriending such poor families as the Weasley’s and treating everyone at Hogwarts, with the exception of the Slytherins or other people who ticked him off in some way, equally. Thinking about this, it was hard for the name “Draco Malfoy” not to come to mind. McGonagall had to wipe away a tear, just thinking about Harry’s short and tragic life.
Although she was uncertain how she was going to get all of this done, McGonagall knew she would have to find a way by herself. The last thing she wanted was to get Hagrid involved.
“I’ll be all right,” she said sternly, but a little uncertainly. Hagrid said nothing, merely gazed into the lake.
“It’s a nice day,” said Hagrid, absentmindedly looking into the distance. “Not a lot o’ days like this in summer-when it’s nice out and not too hot.“
“Hagrid,” said McGonagall carefully, hoping she wouldn’t hurt his feelings, “I really do need to get these letters done and if you keep on talking, the quill will write down your words, not mine…”
“O’ course, I won’t be keepin’ you then,” Hagrid answered, but he didn’t go away. He merely glanced at the scenery surrounding them, but to his credit, didn’t say another word.
Although she knew her task was to finish writing the letters so she could send them out as soon as possible, McGonagall couldn’t help thinking about the many ways the Wizarding World had changed in these past eleven years. She hadn’t kept track of all of the changes, but there were a few she couldn’t miss.
For one, there were the remaining Death Eaters, particularly Bellatrix Lestrange, who were determined to keep up You-Know-Who’s work, even after his death. Several aurors had tried to stop them, but had only succeeded in killing a few. Ron Weasley was one of these aurors. He had been deeply shattered by his best friend’s death, but he had managed to continue Harry’s fight for a good, safe world.
Although it was sad thinking of all the lives the Dark Lord’s remaining Death Eaters had taken, McGonagall had to admit that no one could ever completely get rid of evil. Dumbledore had taught her that.
She thought about all the good changes that had happened in the last eleven years: the new students and professors. Although she had had a taste of it when she was merely Deputy Headmistress, being Headmistress was more work than she ever could have imagined. She still wasn’t sure how Dumbledore had made it look so easy by making an amusing comment, even when the going got the toughest. At least she had Dumbledore’s portrait, for even the tiniest bit of guidance.
Even though she didn’t want to face the problem right now, McGonagall still wasn’t sure how she was going to visit all of the muggleborns. She had to admit that having someone help her was the only solution, and Hagrid was the only one possible. Not sure of how to convince Hagrid, she used the only thing she could think of to get Hagrid to give in: bribery.
“Hagrid,” she said, both powerfully and suddenly, causing the half-giant to look at her in surprise, “I know you-well-probably want to stray away from doing this, but I really need some help.” Feeling Hagrid’s big black beetle eyes on her, she quickly continued. “I’d give you time off for it, of course-time off and whatever beast you want to include in your next lessons, you can have…”
“An’ yeh want me ter tell one of those muggleborns about our world, don’ you?” interrupted Hagrid, but he didn’t sound surprised or even angry; he was merely stating a fact. Turning to look at Hagrid in surprise, McGonagall couldn’t help holding her breath, afraid of what Hagrid would say or do next. To her surprise, he nodded, thinking it over.
“Maybe I should,” said Hagrid thoughtfully, but even his logic didn’t stop the tears from forming in his black eyes. “After all, I doubt Harry would’ve wanted my mourning ter stop me from doin’ other things. It’s high time I learned that.”
McGonagall patted Hagrid on the shoulder awkwardly as he began to sob uncontrollably. It had been ages since he’d last mentioned Harry’s name. Sometimes she wished she could let loose like Hagrid and have a good cry every so often-one that wouldn’t result in her getting drunk later, of course.
After Hagrid’s tears began to calm down, McGonagall managed to say a soft, “Thank you.” Neither said anything for a couple of minutes, looking at the sky.
“So, what’d yeh want me ter do?” Hagrid asked finally, not taking his eyes from the sky. “Should I just take a couple o’ those letters and deliver them before tellin’ them who they are or what?”
McGonagall nodded slowly. She had been feeling a lot of things in the last few moments, but she wasn’t at all sure how to express them.
Hagrid hesitated before taking a few of the letters she had already completed. She watched him leave, his giant figure hunched over in grief, and felt guilty for what she had been forced to do. There were times she envied how well Dumbledore had been able to treat Hagrid. Even though they got along, she still wished they were more comfortable together.
She looked into the distance, thinking about all the changes she would be witnessing over the next year. So many new students would be entering Hogwarts. It was then that she remembered something she had nearly forgotten about that made her heart begin to beat faster and faster.
She had forgotten to tell Hagrid there was a certain girl she wanted to deliver the news to herself.
Her heart hammering quickly, McGonagall looked through the stack of letters, hoping, praying that she would find the Hogwarts acceptance letter to the girl she needed to visit. She distinctly remembered writing it and knew she could not get Hagrid suspicious by rushing over to his house and demanding she deliver the news to her by herself. She looked through the stack another few times, but it was no use. It was plain that Hagrid had taken it.
Liza James’ Hogwarts acceptance letter was gone.
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