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Goodbye (Alphard/Minerva) - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Goodbye (Alphard/Minerva)
Well, I haven't seen a lot of questions going to JKR about Minerva McGonagall or Alphard Black, so I thought it would be good to play with this story that I found in my notes.

She hadn't braided her hair again yet, and it fell softly over her narrow shoulders. In the misty, diffuse light of the highland dawn, she looked like she was a Roman statue. Alphard could imagine her easily in the battle gear of her namesake goddess, standing on the deck of Ulysses' ship, the wind pulling her toga against her long, thin legs. Minerva, Pallas Athena, goddess of wisdom and war.

He blinked the image away.

This was goodbye, and he knew it. He'd known it when she'd come to him last night as a cat, known it when she led him away from the school, known it when she'd brought him here to the abandoned cottage they'd found three years ago while tromping gaily around the hills while they were meant to be in Hogsmeade. He'd known it when she took her hair down and kissed him. After that, analysis of her higher motives had seemed unimportant.

It had been the culmination of six years of laughter, pranks, arguments, half-baked plots against Alphard's sister Bugga, stolen kisses, and hopeless conversations. And it would be the last time they touched one another this way. Alphard didn't think he'd really get the full sense of it until she was gone, but he knew it nonetheless. He'd never touch Minerva McGonagall again, and the knowledge of that made the memory of the last few hours bittersweet.

She looked over her shoulder. "You're awake, then," she said.

Alphard nodded and sat up in bed. It was summer now, but the breeze coming through the open window was still chilly. "You're going to Germany."

It wasn't a question, and she didn't treat it as one. "I'm meeting Gussie and Amelia in London. We're all going."

She didn't bother reminding him that he oughtn't share that information. It would have been an insult. "I... could go with you," Alphard tried.

"You've another year of school, and you really don't care all that much what Grindelwald is doing."

"Of course I do!"

She smiled ruefully and sat down in a wicker rocking chair. "You're a good boy--a good man--in your way, but your way has never spared much care for strangers. Do you think I don't know that about you?"

"Isn't it enough that I care about something because it bothers you?"

"No." She pulled her knee up and rested her chin on it, her light eyes scrutinizing him. "It's not enough for you to risk your life on, or for me to let you risk your life on. Or your N.E.W.T.s, for that matter."

"My N.E.W.T.s? Oh, bloody... Pallas, you're mad if you think I care a fig for my N.E.W.T.s! I care more about Grindelwald than school, and, as you've established, I don't care all that much for Grindelwald."

"Do you mean to pout now?"

"Do you mean to toy with me like a mouse on your claws?"

She pursed her lips, then her expression softened. "No. I'm sorry. It's not a time to tease you, is it?"

"I should think not." Alphard Summoned his clothes, glad that he'd turned seventeen in December and lost the Trace. This wouldn't be the time for a Ministry check-in. "I'd just rather not see you die," he said, pulling his robe over his head. "I could help you there."

"I don't think you could," she said. "My role will be getting inside the holding cells. I'll have to do it as a cat. Gussie and Amelia have an escape system worked out, and Dumbledore's arranged safe houses."

Annoyed, Alphard jabbed his feet into his socks. "I don't understand why Dumbledore doesn't just go in and take care of the main problem instead of just sending you in to rescue prisoners. Get Grindelwald out of the way--no more prisoners. Problem solved."

At this, Minerva actually looked troubled. "I'm sure Dumbledore has his reasons," she said after a while. "But for now, we're doing what we can do to help the victims."

Alphard got out of bed and started to look for his shoes. He wished he hadn't brought it up. It would be better not to know she was skulking around Nurmengard when Walburga was going on at the dinner table about the brilliant Grindelwald regime, and how it was giving wizards back their proper place in the world. Better not to know it while Cygnus talked about his plans to join the regime after he finished school (he thought Grindelwald would be more impressed with him if he got many Outstanding N.E.W.T.s in useful subjects). It would be better not to think of Minerva and her friends being brought before the Zaubererreich, with an English translator to read the charges. It wasn't unlikely that such a translator would be named for a star, and have black hair and gray eyes.

"I might be able to get inside, you know," he said. "With my family, they'd believe it."

"Your sister would tell them you're not on her side."

Alphard found his shoes and sat down to put them on. "That's where you don't understand Bugga. She thinks she's right."

"Well, of course--"

"And she thinks that it's only a matter of time before everyone agrees with her. If I went home today and told her that I'd had a change of heart, and thought Muggles useless things who ought to be ruled by wizards, and that I wanted to be the wizard in question, she be suspicious for about five minutes before deciding that I'd finally seen the light. She hates you, and she'd only be suspicious of you a few minutes longer."

"Because I'm a pure-blood?"

"Just so. And blood traitors just need to be brought back into line."

"You'll forgive me, I'm sure, if I don't make the experiment."

"I'm not suggesting that you do. I'm suggesting that I make the experiment. I'll get inside and... and..."

"And do what, exactly?" She stood up and started braiding her hair into the tight, single plait she'd worn since she was fifteen (before then, it had been two tight plaits). "Why do you want to go anywhere near there?"

"To help you," Alphard said, grinding his teeth. "Why don't you want me there? Are you afraid I'd decide that I like it?"

She didn't answer.

Alphard stopped tying his shoe in the middle of tightening the laces. "You do think that."

"No, of course not. I know you don't care for tormenting Muggles and Squibs. Do you think I'd be here with you if I thought you did?"

"I don't know, Pallas. Would you? What are you thinking? Who do you think I am?"

She finished braiding her hair and took the two sensible clips she used from the nightstand, jabbing one in above each ear. "I think," she said, "that you care for your family, and for me. I think that we've all put a lot of rubbish into your head, and you've not bothered to sort it out just yet. I think you need a year here at school without Bugga or me--or Grindelwald, for that matter--to work out just what it is you believe in."

"Well, I'm certainly glad you're here to look out for my interests."

"I don't mean it that way," she said. She turned to him finally, her hair tight, her robes neat, her specs perched precisely on her nose. Back behind her wall. She sat on the hope chest, across from the chair he was sitting in, and said, "Alphard, I've loved you for years, and you know that. I expect I always will. But I've been tugging you one way and your family's been tugging you another, and I worry that sooner or later, we'll rip you right down the center."

"I'd rather not be tugged by my family. If someone's to let go, I'd prefer it be Bugga. She's a right pain, and I don't care a Knut for her."

"Nonsense," Minerva said. "You grab onto me to keep you out, so I can feel just how strong the pull is from the other side. You'll not abandon your family any time soon, and you know it perfectly well. Nor would I want you to."

"You wouldn't--?" Alphard shook his head.

"Of course not. You'd hate me for it, and you'd hate any cause I dragged you into for it."

"Oh, this isn't about that wretched Divination reading I got!"

She snorted, her opinion of all Divination readings perfectly clear in it. "Alphard, it hardly takes a Seer and a crystal ball to know that the only thing you'd betray your family for is your family. Anyone who knows you knows that. I saw you dive for Cygnus when he fell in the Quidditch match."

"That was a long fall--"

"And I know perfectly well it was you who Cursed that boy who was tormenting little Orion."

"That was just--"

"And when Lucretia got married, you made a bigger fuss about it than Bugga did. And when your cousin Barty Crouch--"

"Oh, all right. Stop it. What's your point?"

"That you need to sort it all out. I believe you want to do the right thing."

"Think I'll see the light, do you?"

"I think you've already seen it, but you're pulling the shade so you can go back to sleep." She shrugged. "That's neither here nor there, Alphard. You can't do a thing until you've made peace with who you are. And if there's any justice, by the time you do, the war will be over."

"So I don't have to fight in it?"

"So that it will be over. If it's not and you decide to fight, I'll be the first to welcome you to the battle lines. But it's my hope that the bloodletting will stop before then."

Alphard decided it would be petty to hope that the war would go on long enough to prove her wrong, so he just finished tying his shoe, then took a deep breath. "And after it? After the war, whether I fight it or not... you're gone, aren't you? I was right. This is goodbye."

"To this?" She reached across the space between them and touched his face gently. "Yes, it is."


"Because I've no desire to spend my life as a hated intruder, and it would do you no good to bring me home."

"I don't care."

"You will." She sat back. "And, in case you missed it, I do care. It would make you miserable, and if you think it would make me happy to see you miserable, you don't know me at all."

"So I don't have any choice."

"I know better than to give you a choice," she said, smiling. "You always find a way to twist the question to give you what you think you want. And I've always been far too easily persuadable."

"You? Ha."

"Oh, please, you talked me into climbing the Astronomy Tower."

"Getting you to do what you mean to do anyway isn't difficult. Are saying that you really mean to stay with me, and you're afraid I'll convince you that you can?"

She straightened her back and stood up. "I am saying that the conversation is over. Permanently."

Alphard sighed. It was only what he'd expected. "All right, then."

"Good." She checked her watch. "I need to Disapparate now, if I'm to meet Gussie and Amelia for our Portkey." She paused. "I hope it was... it was all I had to give."

He stood up and looked at her, reached out to touch her, then let his hand fall. "And all we had to take. It'll have to be enough, won't it?"


"I'll always be your friend, Pallas. Whether you believe it or not."

"I believe it." She took a step back, then went quickly outside, going beyond the cottage's simple Apparition barriers. The mist was already rising around her. She looked back and said, "Goodbye."

Alphard raised his hand to her, and didn't say anything before she disappeared.


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summoner_lenne9 From: summoner_lenne9 Date: December 31st, 2007 08:29 am (UTC) (Link)
I still think you should write whatever you want to without fear of it being killed by canon Fern.

That said this, like everything else of your's, was absolutely lovely. Made me feel very very sad for them, and I love seeing your young McGonagall. It's... lovely seeing her. She's still herself (proper and neat and such) but at the same time... well young.

It's lovely.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 31st, 2007 05:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like McGonagall. She's a very cool character, and I was glad at how angry mistreatment of her made Harry. She was always a constant for him.
shiiki From: shiiki Date: December 31st, 2007 09:08 am (UTC) (Link)
You know, the first thing I always think of when JKR starts giving out canon snippets that contradicts your stuff is 'No way, didn't it already happen this way ...' and then, 'Wait, that was fernwithy's canon.' I guess I'm so used to thinking of your writing as pretty much the backstory that should have happened that it's hard for a new version to sit!

Anyway, enough of the OT-ness and - yes, story. Such a lovely little fic! I adore your Minerva. I can really see how feisty and headstrong she is as a girl, and how determined to do right she is. I love that she's going to Germany and helping out, I love how well she sees through Alphard, and I love her subtle humour.

You've done a great job with Alphard too - he reminds me very much of Sirius, only perhaps a bit less playful.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 31st, 2007 05:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think Alphard can be as playful as Sirius, but not when he's being dumped by the girl he thinks himself in love with. I'd bet he approves of Sirius's taste in teacher-crushes later on! ;p
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 31st, 2007 11:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Wonderful. Alphard is just perfect. Your Minerva is so amazing. It's funny to see how set in her ways she was even as a teenager. :) I'd be happy to read a lot of these two.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 31st, 2007 05:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Minerva just strikes me as one of those people who doesn't suffer a lot of self doubt in her life. Fear that she might not measure up, maybe, but doubt of her basic premises? Not so much.
thornyrose42 From: thornyrose42 Date: December 31st, 2007 11:57 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm with the comments above about the interviews. I think that anyone who has read your stories isn't going to question any of the elements that you put into them simply because we have an awful lot more invested in your stories than we do in a throw away comment or a scrap of paper belonging to JKR. I completly respect your desire to keep up with "canon" but personally I couldn't understand someone who read your Teddyverse, with it's beautiful characterisation and all the thought that has gone into it, only to turn around and say "but Neville ought to end up with Hannah" or "didn't Victoire only has two siblings". I think that all your readers share your disapointment with the interviews and I personally wouldn't mind if you strayed a little away from them.

Sorry, I just needed to get that off my chest.

Now this story is an absolute gem. Both characters come to life within the first two paragraphs and teh way you have structured the arguement leave me sympathising with both of them. And I thought that Minerva's opservations about Alphard were particularly interesting. Torn between Family and The Right Thing to Do and being crippled by it. I loved the forshadowing of Alphard's eventual actions and it now seems a sort of sad irony that he was only able to make peace with himself in death and instead spent a life half way between wakeing and sleeping to use Pallus's ( :) ) metaphor. I thought that this also emphasises just how much...courage or callousness it would take for a pureblood brought up the way Alphard was to break away from his Family, the prime focus of his loyalty. And thus exactly how much of an anomally those people are.

I also loved the image of Minerva on the front lines of this war. It indicates another reason why she was the only other staff member (apart from Snape) that we know about to have joined the Order. And I'm curious as to who Gussie is, Amelia yes, but I've been racking my brains and can't think of who she would be.

Thank for the amazing bit of writing Fern!
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 31st, 2007 01:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gussie is Augusta Longbottom, I believe.
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 31st, 2007 12:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
This was wonderful. Is "the only thing you'd betray your family for is your family" a nod to his bequest to Sirius? And Minerva's hesitation about why Dumbledore didn't just take on Grindlewald and end the war makes me want to know more about that era.

lollapulizer From: lollapulizer Date: December 31st, 2007 04:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think Minerva hesitates because she doesn't know what we know (from DH): that Dumbledore put off fighting Grindelwald because he was afraid of learning that he had cast the spell that killed Ariana. And the whole fighting an ex-lover thing.
From: fhsaffar Date: December 31st, 2007 01:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree with everybody else. Please write your own stories no matter what JKR says. (I for one like your Bill/Fleur family MUCH more than JKR's.) This piece was simply brilliance. Awesome. I won't try to mention the parts I love cuz it would mean copy-pasting the whole thing into this comment, I'd on;y like to point out that Gussie</i? is THE perfect nickname! It took me a few seconds to figure out who it was, but I was on the floor after that. We all LOVE Gran Longbottom don't we? PS: I know I'm getting annoying, mentioning it everytime, but I'm really dying to know the Regulus story. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 31st, 2007 05:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have a concern about the Regulus story that may make it awkward to write. I have to look into some things.

Gran Longbottom rocks. :)
gabrielladusult From: gabrielladusult Date: December 31st, 2007 02:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm...this gives me all sorts of fodder for your next challenge entry.

"Alphard, it hardly takes a Seer and a crystal ball to know that the only think you'd betray your family for is your family.

Have you written much interaction between Alphard and young Sirius? I seem to recall reading something but it's possible it wasn't yours. I'd love to see Alphard's reaction to Sirius being in Minerva's house and Minerva's reaction to Sirius (does he remind her of Alphard, is that why she's so fond of him?).

I like the references to Gussie and Amelia too.

An interesting pairing.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 31st, 2007 05:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! I haven't written much of Alphard, just a couple of ficlets, and I don't remember any of them dealing with Sirius. I may give that a stab.
From: ivybear98 Date: December 31st, 2007 02:52 pm (UTC) (Link)


What a lovely snippet of young Minerva. You capture her self-confidence, intelligence, and principles and yet she still comes across as having a youthful spirit. I loved the line that Alphard would only betray his family for his family. And the paragraph about all the different Blacks at Hogwarts really captured what must have been the Black family's "glory" days. Wonderful story and now I want to see more of young Minerva!

PS- Fern, it's Lee. I'm on LJ now as ivybear98
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 31st, 2007 05:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Lovely!

Slytherin in that era must have looked like Gryffindor in the canon era, just with Blacks instead of Weasleys, with more cousins than siblings.

Young Minerva is fun. She's so prim and proper, but thinks it only natural to jump into the middle of a battle.
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: December 31st, 2007 03:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Alphard, it hardly takes a Seer and a crystal ball to know that the only think you'd betray your family for is your family.

Thing, not think.

After this, I'd love to see a fic about Minerva and Sirius, age 17, perhaps the start of his final year. Does she think about Alphard when she looks at his nephew?
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: December 31st, 2007 03:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
She turned to him finally, her hair tight, her robes neat, her specs perched precisely on her nose. Back behind her wall. She sat on the hope chest

There's a sentence fragment there that doesn't work.

It's such a poignant story. I like it better every time I read it.

Do you have a page with links on the Big Head Boy site to all these ficlets? I know you've been doing them for years and it would be a great pleasure to go back and reread them.
doctoraicha From: doctoraicha Date: December 31st, 2007 03:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, wow. I think you nailed Minerva. So, so young. And poor Alphard, really.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 31st, 2007 06:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
She really isn't giving him much of a choice. She's right that he'd find a way to twist the choice into getting what he wants, but still.
willowbough From: willowbough Date: December 31st, 2007 04:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Always good to see something new from you. I'd been curious about Minerva/Alphard ever since I saw glimpses of it in Hunter's Moon, so I'm glad that you wrote this. Bittersweet, the way I suspect a lot of Gryffindor/Slytherin relationships might be or ultimately turn out, but at least we know that their friendship did endure.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 31st, 2007 06:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
And they probably ended up better as friends than as a couple, not dealing with the stress of trying to live with each other with very different priorities.
darth_pipes From: darth_pipes Date: December 31st, 2007 04:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Excellent story, Fern. I think you should keep writing no matter what. Your stories are too damn good.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 31st, 2007 06:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Writing isn't the problem. What I'm writing is the question of the day. :)

Glad you liked it!
lollapulizer From: lollapulizer Date: December 31st, 2007 04:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
This was excellent. I think that if you can't follow canon, then so be it. If you can avoid contradicting it (like having Neville be with Hannah instead of Vivian), certainly do so, but don't get too worked up because Victoire is only meant to have two siblings instead of seven or eight or whatever the count is now ;)

Besides, if you think about it, none of what JKR says in interviews is truly canon until The Scottish Book is published. She's often contradicted herself in interviews, so while you should use them as a guideline, they certainly aren't set in stone quite yet.

Also, I'd love to see some Alphard-Sirius or Sirius-Minerva interaction. This story really got me interested in Alphard and Minerva's story.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 31st, 2007 06:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm really hoping she gets involved in something else and forgets about the Scottish Book. Does that make me a bad fan? :p

I may do some more with Alphard. I kind of like him.
obsfuscation From: obsfuscation Date: December 31st, 2007 05:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wonderful! I love your Minerva. And I have loved the Pallas/Alphard relationship ever since you used it the first time. It's just wonderful. This is such a great goodbye for them. ...it was all I had to give. Oh, Minerva. Just wonderful, I must reiterate.

I'm with everyone else, JKR is tossing out big honking canon-balls, but geez louise, ignore 'em til the Scottish Book comes out. (That gives us maybe 10 years....?)

Or take Marauder's Roost so far into the future that it's totally original (which it totally is anyway with a few name changes, and then the only canon to worry about is your own. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 31st, 2007 06:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've been giving thought to the latter--the Roost business--but I'm a little worried that without the pedulum swing angle of the Voldemort war to back it up, it really will come off as nothing but a bunch of elitists trying to hold on to their privilege.
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 31st, 2007 07:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, I could see Marauder's Roost as being kind of like I got the impression the north of France was during the Vendee uprising (and it's been so long since I read about it that I'm not sure I'm getting my names right). Anyhow, according to what I read, the area with the uprising during the Terror and all had less economic difference between the nobles and the commoners and also had better relations with the clergy - more sincere believers and more sincerely trying to do their best priests.

A lot of the extremes coming out of Paris angered and horrified enough of them - like a lot of anti-Catholic things and priests and nuns being executed if they didn't comply - that you had an uprising which was brutally suppressed (estimates vary how many died, some say only a few hundred, but other estimates say it could have been as much as a third of the population in the region - and some of those executions were pretty ugly [there were, for example, mass executions where men and women were taken out into a river, tied together so they couldn't swim, and then either thrown in or left in boats with holes knocked into them. As an added humiliation, the executioners took the victims clothes to be sold later, leading to the nickname of these executions as (if I remember correctly] 'wet weddings']).

From the Marauders Roost POV, you have a group that's living quietly and not too grandly - no one living on an island in Northern Scotland qualifies as grand no matter how big the house or how good the central heating - who get caught up in a backlash against a group much further south that they're identified with even if they aren't guilty of any of the things being held against the other group and (this is the Marauders, I don't know enough about the Vendee uprising to even be sure I'm using the right name) their main "crime" may be to take a stand against the evils being done in the name of justice.

Er, getting back to this, I can't help wondering . . . does this mean there's any chance of a Minerva-Alphard child, possibly put up for adoption, who may be wandering around the world?

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 2nd, 2008 06:11 am (UTC) (Link)
does this mean there's any chance of a Minerva-Alphard child, possibly put up for adoption, who may be wandering around the world?

I'm guessing Minerva's a little too careful for that, but in theory... nothing's 100%. But I wasn't going there, really. :)

Interesting thoughts on the French revolution. Most revolutions, really, have their scary purges afterward.
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