Malcolm’s Tale of Angus Óg
A rustic cottage on an isolated island in the Hebrides
27 August 1957
Snug in bed after a tiring but lovely final full day on the island, Eilean Tèarmunn, Albus and Minerva settled down for the night, both taking up the books they had been reading while on holiday. Minerva looked at her book, then set it aside.
“I really don’t feel like reading tonight, Albus. Why don’t you sing me that song you were singing the other day?”
“Oh, well . . . if you like . . . or another, perhaps? There’s one I particularly like, an old lullaby,” Albus said.
“That would be very nice. I would like that.” Minerva settled down in bed and looked at him expectantly.
“But first . . . I think something from you!”
“Oh, Albus, I can’t sing. And I can never remember lyrics,” Minerva said.
“Not a song, then—a story. Tell me a bedtime story, Minerva.”
“A story? What kind of story?”
Albus shrugged. “Whatever kind of story you would like.”
“Hmm, I don’t know . . .” Minerva thought a moment, trying to remember some of the stories she used to tell Melina when she was little. Somehow, “The Wee Wee Mannie and the Big Big Coo” didn’t seem quite the right sort of story, as humorous as it was . . . then she remembered another story that she had been told as a child.
“When I was a very little girl,” Minerva began, deciding to tell a story within a story, “I began to have nightmares. It seemed that scarcely a night went by when I did not wake screaming from a bad dream. My parents even tried changing my bedroom, thinking that perhaps it was the move from the nursery that triggered the dreams, although that had been months and months before. But I would waken, terrified, and Fwisky would be there to reassure me, and she would call my mother or father, and one of them would come down to sit with me until I fell asleep again.
“As a Healer, my mother was loathe to give me any potions before bed because of my age, trying just cambric tea, then simple herbal teas, but my nightmares continued.”
“What were your nightmares about?” Albus asked, interrupting.
“Usually, I was locked somewhere dark and cold; sometimes, I was being chased, and I could never see my pursuer, but I could hear him and know he would catch me, that I could not escape. I would always awaken with the feeling of falling from a great height, waking before I could hit the ground. They were terrifying for a child, and not like the other strange nightmares that I had occasionally had before, ones that seemed rather amusing in the light of day—like the one of the giant carrots that would talk to me in deep voices, saying things I couldn’t understand. But I stopped having those sorts of peculiar nightmares altogether, and only had these others that scared me even after I was awake,” Minerva said.
“So what stopped them?”
“I’m getting to that, Albus! You will ruin the story,” Minerva said, shaking her head at him.
“Oh, sorry!” Albus said with mock-meekness, settling back down to listen to his bedtime story. “I’m just rather caught up in it, that’s all.”
“Good,” Minerva said, giving him a pat and a smile, her eyes sparkling. “And if you’re a very good boy, you may get another story on another night!”
Albus chuckled at that.
“Malcolm came home to spend a few weeks, and he heard about my nightmares. Mother was just beginning to think she’d have to give me some weak Dreamless Sleep, when he said to give him a try at it. He set up a little camp bed in my bedroom and stayed with me. The first night, I woke up crying, and Malcolm was there, ready with a lit candle and some warm, peppermint-flavoured milk . . . very nice, it was, too,” Minerva said, smiling at the memory, “and he had me tell him the dream. He had me repeat the dream a few times, in great detail, more detail each time. Somehow, the fear of the dream dissipated as I retold it, and I slept through the rest of the night quite well.
“The next night, he set up his little bed in my room again, but this time, he gave me my warm peppermint milk before I settled down, then he had me tell him the nightmare again, and tell him all about the other bad dreams I had had in the previous weeks. I became afraid to sleep again, fearing I would have another one of those nightmares, but Malcolm told me that he would ask his friend Angus to bring me good dreams.”
“Dream Angus!” Albus exclaimed, recognising the figure. “Oh, sorry!”
“Yes, well, as you say, Dream Angus. But Malcolm told me the true story of Dream Angus, you see, not the ones you may have heard,” Minerva said, suspending disbelief to tell the story, and beginning to see the appeal that such story-telling had for Malcolm. “He met him, he said, one late night on the hills to the east of our home. And this is what he told me.
“I was out wandering the hills and moors one very late night, little sister, and I saw a little man a-hirpling over the brae, up to his knees in the yellow gorse, bright in the moonlight and fragrantly green underfoot. I hailed the fellow, calling to him across a rushing burn. He splashed over to me, arriving the other side as dry as a desert. He wore a blouse of the blue daylit sky, a bright waistcoat of sunny yellow with shiny gold buttons, and a tartan kilt of every colour of the moor. To look at his kilt caused my eyelids to grow heavy and my mind, confused, so I looked into his eyes and met the hue of the heather at dawn.
“‘Greetings and well-met,’ I said with a bow, seeing that this was no ordinary man before me and wanting his favour and not his wrath. It is always wise, little sister, when meeting such a one, to greet them most politely and never to anger them.
“‘And to you, young one,’ he said to me. ‘What be you a-doing out on such a night as this, a night to fill with sleep and beautiful dreams?’
“‘Enjoying the beauty of the moon, the stars, and the wind as it sings through the bracken,’ I answered.
“‘And who are you, who listens to the song of the wind, young man?’ he asked me.
“‘I am Malcolm of the McGonagall Cliffs, sir. And may I ask how I might address you?’
“‘I am Angus Óg, Angus the Young, Angus the Ancient, Angus of Dreams, Dream Angus, they call me,’ he said.
“‘Dream Angus!’ I exclaimed. ‘I have heard your name.’
“‘And my story, would you like to hear my story, young Malcolm of the McGonagall Cliffs?’ And without waiting for my response, he sat on the ground, his legs crossed, and began to tell me this tale.
“‘I am Young Angus, and I bring you dreams in the night, dreams of truth, dreams you can reach out and touch when you awaken if only you believe.
“‘And I, Young Angus, I dream daily of my love, my one love, my great love, my sweetly beloved Cáer, and she it is whom I seek in my nightly travels through the world, and as I travel I spread sweet dreams. One day, you will dream a dream of your true love, and if you believe, you will wake to find her, as I hope one day to find my sweet Cáer once more.’
“‘Dreams you bring?’ I asked. ‘And what of nightmares? When I am troubled by nightmares, do you send those, too?’
“‘Never a nightmare do I bring, unless you make it so yourself, and not all dreams are gifts of mine. But ask me for a dream, young one, and I will give you a dream of your greatest desire, and if you believe and your heart is great, you will waken and find it,’ Dream Angus said. ‘If you do not believe or your heart is weak, that which you love will drift by you, unseen, perhaps lost forever. You speak of nightmares, young Malcolm, and those never do I bring, but ask Old Angus, and I will come into your dream and weave you a basket to contain your nightmare; I will leave you the basket and you can put your nightmare in it, and then romp freely through happy, lighthearted dreams. Your nightmare can never escape from one of Old Angus’s baskets. I weave them from golden sunlight and silver moonlight, with lids of starlight and the sparkle off the ocean waves holding them safely inside.’
“‘Can you give me such a basket?’ I asked, thinking it would be a wondrous thing to have, to keep all my nightmares in, away from my sleep.
“‘I give them as you sleep, young Malcolm, as you dream, and only to those whose need is great,’ Dream Angus told me. ‘But now I must be on my way, though I do not believe I will attain my goal before the morning breaks,’ he said with a sigh, looking off toward the east, ‘for the morning comes soon on these high summer days and the nights are short.’
“‘Where are you bound, Old Angus?’ I asked. ‘May I help you on your way?’
“I seek the nearest fairy mound, thinking I may find my own true love asleep beneath, hoping that this will be the night I will find my beautiful Cáer, stolen from me yet again, and it is she I seek, and she who awaits me to save her. A year and a day I sought her before, knowing my dream of her was true, and on finding her, we flew off for an eternity of happiness, or so I believed and so she hoped. But she has been taken away again, and I will seek her a year and a day or more until I find her again, my beautiful Cáer.’
“Young Angus saddened and wept then, growing old in his grief there before my eyes. And oh, little sister, his tears moved my heart, and I vowed I would help him, help Dream Angus find his beautiful Cáer, stolen from him, his eternity of love stolen away.
“‘Young Angus,’ I cried, ‘still your weeping, for I will help you, I vow it. Until we restore your beautiful Cáer, I am your servant! Old Angus, cease your tears! Together, we will find your beloved Cáer and your eternity of love will be reborn!’
“And so I travelled with Young Angus as he spread his true dreaming across the land, to folk both magic and Muggle, and we sought his beloved, his beautiful Cáer; forty days and forty nights, we walked, we flew, we Apparated, seeking, ever seeking the one most beloved of Angus Óg, who loved so greatly that he wished to share his true dreams of love with all.
“After forty days and forty nights, we found his true love, his beloved Cáer, weeping beneath an apple tree on a wee small island, surrounded by a loch filled with Grindylows, and the loch was surrounded by bogs hopping with Hinkypunks, and the air of the island droned heavy with Glumbumbles. Together, Young Angus and I confused the Hinkypunks, leading them astray. Then we flew over the loch, angering the Grindylows, who gnashed their tiny teeth and screamed tiny screams. When we reached the wee small island, I played my penny whistle, a happy, cheery tune, too-too-la-too-la-too-roo-la-too, I played, driving the drear Glumbumbles away. And we took up Cáer, beloved of Young Angus, and we took her from that wee small island, saving her from her sadness.
“And Angus Óg, again forever young in his love, so grateful was he, he told me that if ever I needed a true dream or if ever I needed a nightmare basket of light, I could call on him, and he would come and give me that true dream or weave me that nightmare basket. He said he might not come the first night, nor even the second, but that come he would, because I helped him to find his beloved Cáer, saving her from her sorrow and returning to him his eternity of love.
“Never, little sister, have I called upon Young Angus for a true dream, and never have I asked him for a basket to trap my nightmares, but I think that if we call him tonight, Young Angus will come and take your nightmares away, if we call him together, little sister, he will come, if not tonight, then one night soon, and you will dream sweet dreams, your nightmares all bundled away in his enchanted basket of light.
“Then Malcolm sang me a song, a nonsense tune, I think,” Minerva continued, “and I fell asleep thinking of Dream Angus and his dreams of love and his baskets of light. The next three nights, Malcolm slept on a little bed in my room, giving me warm peppermint milk and singing me to sleep, until we decided that Dream Angus had come and bundled all of my nightmares away in his special baskets of light.
“And that, Albus, is the true story of Dream Angus and his beloved Cáer, and of how Malcolm of the McGonagall Cliffs helped to reunite them, and how, in gratitude, Dream Angus took away my nightmares in his baskets of light,” Minerva ended, hoping that he hadn’t found it too silly.
“That was a wonderful story on so many levels, my dear. Thank you!” Albus said with a smile, raising up on one elbow to lean forward and kiss her cheek. “And Malcolm really slept in your room all those nights?”
“He did. Five nights. I hadn’t thought about it in a while. I was . . . five, I think, maybe six. He was in his early twenties, and I’m sure he had more exciting things to be doing than babysitting his little sister. He can be flighty and aggravating, but he’s a good man.” Minerva’s eyes were soft and unfocussed as she thought of the past and of her oldest brother, “the strange one,” as she so often called him.
“I should tell him,” she said. “Tell him how much I do appreciate him.”
Minerva had always been appreciative of her youngest brother, Murdoch, who was only twelve years older than she, and who had spent more continuous time with her as she was growing up, but sometimes with Malcolm, she failed to look past his superficially irresponsible and impulsive manner to see the man beneath, the one she knew was there. Of the four McGonagall siblings, the two Gryffindors, Minerva and Malcolm, seemed the least like each other temperamentally, but perhaps they had more in common than she had thought.
“So,” Minerva asked, turning her attention back to Albus, “did I earn my lullaby with that story?”
“You most certainly did, although now I’m so sleepy from hearing of Dream Angus, I’m not certain I can sing it,” Albus teased.
“Shall I splash a little cold water on your face, then? That would wake you up!”
“No, no, my dear, I think I can manage,” Albus said with a chuckle. “This is a song my mother used to sing to me, and later, to my brother, when we were young. It’s just a simple Welsh tune.”
Albus began to sing, the soft Welsh words rolling over Minerva, and with them, her sleepiness grew, and soon, snuggled up in the cottage’s cosy bedroom, the two fell asleep for the last night of their summer holiday.