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The Cat Came Back

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 There was little about Minerva McGonagall that did not immediately scream witch. Minerva was obviously a witch from the glint of her spectacles to the click of her heeled boots. Everything from the swish of her cloak to the line of her robes, from the point of her hat to the draw of her wand, said very pointedly, “This is a witch. She is not to be trifled with.”

 When she appeared over the crest of a green hill, a dark and ominous silhouette on a broomstick, the world seemed to hush for a moment. The rustling woods did not cease, but their sound seemed to quiet; the whispering grasses did not pause, but their voices seemed to dim. Even the sky, heavy with brewing storm, seemed to darken for the witch flying purposefully, path set and speed unrelenting, through the wee hours of the night.

 Then, a flash. The weighty clouds lit up with white, first one and then all of them at once it seemed, and for a split second, the countryside wore a twisted kind of daylight. Like the harsh light of a spell… or perhaps like a hex… or almost certainly like a curse.

 The light flashed off Minerva’s spectacles and the sharp frown of her face.

 And then the thunder rolled through the world, shaking at the bones of the trees and the blood of the ground. It was the kind of thunder that shuddered through the heart and the lungs of a person, but Minerva McGonagall gave no indication that she had felt or heard any such thing. The thunder shook at the world, sending leaves and grass flailing wildly, but the only part of Minerva McGonagall that responded was her cloak – it flapped, sharply, like a reprimand.

 The resurrected wind howled at the curling grip of Minerva’s long fingers and the wool of her cloak, as ineffective as the thunder that had rolled off the witch as well, and Minerva McGonagall’s broomstick did not waver for it.

 And then it began to rain. Thick and wide drops, fat with cold water, enough to splash off every surface and make muddy seas of grassy fields they fell on. These heavy drops were the final seal and soon enough, the massive storm broke properly down on the highlands.

 Through the hot lightning and the quaking thunder, through the howling winds and drenching rain, Minerva McGonagall merely wrapped herself a little tighter around the bundle spelled to her breast, hidden from the foul weather under both her cloak and her robes. She did not waver and neither did her broomstick, for it was a faithful and steady thing and Minerva had better things to do than stop for impertinent and untimely storms.

 Magic could make storms, and if it were pressed and in a foul-enough mood, it could unmake them too. Minerva McGonagall, full of immoveable grief and unstoppable fury, had priorities that prevented her from wasting time, but she was in the mood to dare something to press her.

 She would not be stopped. Not tonight.

 On she flew, until the dark countryside being flattened by storming hell became familiar dark countryside being flattened by storming hell. On she flew, until a familiar green hill rolled out of the wet sea of them, and a homely, sturdy, three-story house made of grey stone and green doors and window frames sat stubbornly down on top of it. A familiar light waved from one downstairs window and smoke drifted weakly up into the storm from the farmhouse’s chimney in greeting.

 Minerva flew straight for the door, nearly clipping a fence on the way down, and yet pulled up more gently than sharply. She stepped off the broom with determined grace, her boots squelching on the doorstep, and took a moment to regain her sense of the ground, standing as though she was daring the doormat beneath her to even think of tripping her. One she was back, firmly balanced on the doormat, she raised her free fist and banged on the door. Three times, hard enough that the thunder at her back sounded a bit like an echo.

 There were hasty, heavy footsteps from inside the house within seconds, and seconds later, there was a click, a thunk, and the door swung open. A tall, burly, long-haired and bearded man in tartan pyjamas and a bathrobe stood in the doorway; he had dark hair, glasses, and a wand tucked behind one ear. A well-rooted wizard to Minerva's unshakeable witch. 

 “Yer gonna lose ye’ear that way, Malcolm,” Minerva said lowly.

 Malcolm only had eyes for the bundle held tight against her bosom, which she readjusted for comfort and to give the man some idea of what it was. Turning it outwards slightly, doing her best to shield him from the rain still, Minerva watched as Malcolm’s eyebrows raised high at appearance of a one-year-old child’s face… and the lightning bolt scar in the middle of his forehead.

 “Aren’t’ye a little old to be bringin’ a bastard babe t’the doorstep, Minnie?” Malcolm said finally.

 “Go bugger y’self, Malcolm,” Minerva answered flatly.

 Malcolm McGonagall stared for a moment, then sighed, and stepped out of the way to let his older sister in. “Well, get in, already, y’half-drowned pussycat. The fuck’re you doing with the Boy-Who-Lived?” Closing the door behind her, Malcolm asked, “Y’steal ‘im?”

 “Yes,” Minerva said.

 “Well, fuck. Wha’d’ya go and do that for?”

 “He was going t’be left with the worst sort of Muggles imaginable,” Minerva said, setting her broom against the wall. “In the most non-magical sort of neighborhood imaginable.” She looked her brother dead in the eye and said, “I couldn’t do that to Lily and James Potter, Malcolm.”

 Malcolm’s shoulders slumped. “So it’s all true then.”

 Minerva nodded as she took off her cloak and hat, handing them to her brother and keeping the sleeping child against her chest. “Aye,” she said hoarsely. “Lily and James Potter are dead. I couldn’t let their son be raised by magic-hating Muggles. Bugger if I know what now, but not that.”

 “…We can dump ’im on Rob?” Malcolm suggested.

 Minerva stared at her younger brother, unimpressed with the suggestion made most likely in the spirit of playing games with the youngest McGonagall child. Both the game itself and the suggestion of their younger brother suddenly becoming a parent were, in her opinion, in extremely poor taste. 

 “Over my sopping wet dead body, Malcolm McGonagall. Go get a kettle on and yer man out of bed before I beat ye'over the head with a broom.”

 “Och, fine,” Malcolm said. “Ye stubborn old hag.”

 Minerva reached for her broomstick again, eyes narrowed, and Malcolm hurried down the hall to shout for his husband upstairs. Pleased with herself from the glint of her spectacles to the swish of her rain-soaked robes, Minerva looked down at the child in her arms. Forty-six years old, widowed, and thoroughly embroiled in Hogwarts and the Order of the Phoenix, she hadn’t the faintest what a witch like her was supposed to do with a baby.

 With a heady sigh, she walked down the hall and into the kitchen. Malcolm, having shouted for his better half, was busy fixing up some tea and something to eat. Minerva could hear Iain, awake and unhappy, fixing to come downstairs while talking loudly with someone else in the house - shouting, more like. Both voices were unhappy and familiar. 

 “Didn't know Diana was home,” Minerva commented, taking a seat at the table.

 “Didn’t know my sister was gonna steal a babe,” Macolm answered. “But aye, the spawn’s home. Ye’re so busy, Minnie. We need t’keep up better so we know what stupid fucking thing’s happening this week. Is this why y’never had a babe, Min? Needed one that could kill a Dark Tosser, first?”

 “Bugger off, Malcolm,” Minerva replied on reflex.

 “What’re y’even gonna do with him?”

 “Raise him,” Minerva said determinedly, hackles raised, before she realized exactly what she’d just said. She almost took the words back, but then she remembered that Malcolm was in the room, so she swallowed that and went with the natural instinct of glaring reproachfully towards him.

 Malcolm just stared back, thoroughly immune and unimpressed. “Well, congrats on the kitten, y’mad cat,” he said. “I’ve always wanted the chance t’be a better uncle than Rob."

 Minerva gave up glaring, raised her nose in the air, and went about checking over little Harry Potter. She made sure that he was comfortable, warm, and that the blankets were still wrapped tight.  She felt… proud of herself for keeping him perfectly dry through that terrible storm… and for coming back for him on that doorstep. She was a witch, after all, and one not to be trifled with.

 Malcolm cleared his throat. “…Y’didn’t really steal him though, eh, Minnie?”

 Yes.

 “No, of course not,” Minerva replied archly.

 “Och, fuck, ye did.”

 “Did not.”

 Malcolm threw up his hands. “I’m gonna let Iain and Rob take this one.”

 “Thank you,” Minerva said with a sniff.

 “No problem, Min. I’m gonna yank Iain down. Here’s yer tea; have a fucking biscuit if y’like, ye gloriously mad cat burglar. Why couldn’t y’just get an actual kitten or something instead of the Boy-Who-Lived?”

 “Bugger off, Malcolm,” Minerva said, tracing Harry Potter’s tiny face with a finger. Did James look like this when he was younger? She had always supposed James Potter had been a deceptively adorable child; and alongside Lily Evans, there was little chance this child wouldn’t be adorable.

 She could adore him, she thought. Someone would have to. It could be her.

 It would be a terribly witchy thing to do, according to all the Muggle stories, to steal a child and raise it as her own. And Minerva McGonagall, after all was said and done, was nothing if not a witch - from the determination in her breast, to the wildness under her skin and the grief stuck in her lungs. She might know as much about young children as Muggles knew of witches, but she was a witch from the tears glittering behind her spectacles to the trembling in her hands. She could learn.

 And if anyone wanted to argue, she’d show them exactly why witches weren’t to be trifled with.