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Voldemort falls just as the first slivers of sunlight slant through the chasms in the walls. If Minerva was still a religious woman she’d call it a sign from God. At first the light only creeps in, like a thief, like it’s not welcome. There is still darkness heavy in the sky.

Minerva was a few years ahead of Tom Riddle in school and she didn’t like him then, which she likes to think is proof she has a good sense for character. It’s failed her sometimes but not with him, not with that handsome too-quiet boy with knives in his eyes. The boy who tried to burn the world down and who now lies on the cool marble floor his followers’ curses have left constellations of cracks in.

It is strange how he looks like a human being.

Minerva’s eyes are still full of the tears that filled them when she saw Harry Potter’s body limp in Hagrid’s arms. This is the last straw, she remembers thinking. I have lost so many, but please, not this boy. Harry Potter is alive, somehow, standing stunned with two wands-Voldemort’s and his own- in his hand. If she was him she wouldn’t be able to believe she’d really done it, either. 

Soon, she knows, she will shed those tears for Fred Weasley, for Lavender Brown, for Remus Lupin, for all of her students who lie, some covered with blankets and some with faces still open to the sky (the ceiling had been mostly broken during the battle. If it rains they’ll be in trouble). Soon she will attend another round of funerals. But now she has work to do.

Not all of her students are dead. This, she reminds herself, is a triumph. Really more of a miracle. 

The few Death Eaters left in the hall have been stunned, in those shocked seconds as Voldemort was killed by his own curse yet again, finally. (Or are as sightless, now, as the Dark Lord is. Minerva will feel guilt, later, that she refuses to mourn them.) For once, Minerva cannot hear the whizzing sound of curses, the screams of rage and anguish. It is almost too quiet.

Later, she will be comforting the bereaved and helping the injured, organizing the Order and beginning the agonizing task of repairing the school. But for now, there is a silence, like the moment before a prayer. It is almost as if they are all in a dream.

The grip of her wand still digs into her palm, and her heart still races. She has no idea if the war is over. 

“Poppy,” she calls, at first plaintive, like a girl much younger than she is. Poppy is tending to the wounded, her body bent over like a supplicant. Minerva can almost see the pained expression on her face that peeks through the mask of impassivity. Can almost see the tired lines around her eyes, the furrows that deepened with every student walking around on broken bones amateurishly set by a classmate. Minerva knows these signs on the face she loves well--she has them too.

Poppy sees her. Minerva can spot the exact moment, how Poppy’s face turns ever so subtly towards her. Like tides to the moon. Almost inevitable. Minerva can see how her lover just barely restrains herself from running to her, feels the desire like a muscle memory. Poppy is never more beautiful, Minerva thinks, than when she’s healing.

“Don’t be silly, Min,” Poppy tells her when she says that, and Minerva is surprised at her own sentimentality. And yet it’s true, really. Minerva knows this now more than ever, the memory of Poppy stopped from healing by those--those bastards --playing on repeat like a Muggle film through her mind.

Above them the sky--the true sky and not the ceiling--is still dark. The world has not yet fully woken, even though they are all too awake. A radio crackles in the distance, and the roaring of reunions. The desperate sobs of those forever un-reunited. Someone ought to do something, to make sure that grieving relatives can enter the castle while keeping out enemies, but everything is still so new that the wider world must not have found out what has occurred here yet.

And so Minerva allows herself one thing, before she begins.

“Poppy!” she calls, and walks--not runs, she is not silly or desperate enough to run--to where Poppy has finished healing the student.

Poppy’s arms open and crush her between them. Minerva feels the wild beat of her heart against her own chest, and grief and joy rush through her all mixed together. They are still alive, unbelievable as it seems. Still breathing, hearts still beating, still loving. Impossible and yet it’s true.

“I do believe we are still alive,” Minerva says with forced dryness. 

“Indeed, darling,” Poppy says, kissing her shoulder. “Indeed we are.”

Later, later they will hold each other and weep for those who are not so lucky as them. And they remember how lucky it is they are alive.

And for now Minerva presses a frantic kiss to the corner of Poppy’s mouth. Her whole body aches from a curse she was hit with and Poppy casts a quick diagnostic, still clinging to her, and casts a healing spell that rushes over Minerva like a wave. 

There is dust across Poppy’s forehead and her eyes are red. Minerva vanishes the dust and kisses her forehead, and knows she can do nothing for the redness but hold her, and be there, and be alive. 

“I love you,” Minerva says. “I don’t say that enough.”

“Just enough,” says Poppy, and she smiles, just a small sad one at the corner of her mouth that Minerva loves to kiss, but it is a smile just the same. Like a flash of daylight over the battlefield.

The sun is rising in earnest now, beginning to banish the long hard night. The memories will be so much more difficult to banish. Minerva knows how her students will spend their nights, screaming from nightmares or pacing to stave off the insomnia.

“We’ll need to stock up on lots of Dreamless Sleep,” Minerva murmurs.

“Always practical, Min,” says Poppy sadly. “I’ve no idea where we’ll get any potions, my cabinet is so depleted.”

“We’ll get them,” Minerva says. “I’ll find some students and Order members to help, and I’ll go talk to them about St. Mungo’s.”

Poppy’s face falls ever so slightly, like the tiniest drop of a mountain’s elevation. Inches over years. Minerva knows that the Death Eater takeover of the country’s medicine haunts her nights. Poppy will have to take some of her own Dreamless Sleep--or, more likely, Minerva will convince her to take a miniscule drop of it--and let Minerva hold her in bed, and they will hope for better days.

“Do you see the sunrise, Minerva? Such a beautiful sky, on such a terrible day,” Poppy says.

“I know,” Minerva says. “I know,” and for a moment longer they watch the sunrise intertwined.