the night's on fire~ (pretty_panther) wrote in hh_sugarquill,
the night's on fire~
pretty_panther
hh_sugarquill

Fic: No Challenge: Toy Soldiers

Title:Toy Soldiers ao3
Rating:R
Word Count:3260
Characters Minerva Mcgonagall, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Draco Malfoy, Neville Longbottom, Albus Dumbledore,
Summary:Minerva has already watched a generation become soldiers . To her horror, she realises she is watching it again.
Warnings:mentions of torture
Author's Notes:With thanks to my beta :)



Minerva watches as her students become soldiers and wonders why she is having to do it again. Part of her wants to reach out and help them and another thinks she failed the first time so maybe she should just stay out of it. It is their fight now. It starts with Harry, Ron, Hermione and Neville when they are just eleven years old. Just eleven. The trio tell her they think the stone is under threat and she knows from then that they will be fighting this war. Harry is perhaps a certainty she tries to deny to herself but it is very clear even then that Hermione and Ron will be at his side. Albus may try and keep his own council but Minerva is no fool. It doesn't take her long to find out why the stone suddenly needs to be kept at Hogwarts. A second later she realises that if You-Know-Who is going to return then he will want to finish what he started with Harry Potter.

Dumbledore spoke of fame and pressure but they were never good enough reasons to leave Harry Potter with the Dursley family. Something was always going to happen.

It doesn't surprise her that Neville Longbottom stands up to his friends to try and keep them safe and out of trouble. A son of Frank and Alice was always going to get wrapped up in things at some point. It makes her proud to think at such a young age he is willing to stand up for what he believes in despite how much he doubts his own abilities. When children are injured she has to write home and explain why. She doesn't send one to Privet Drive. Dumbledore insists they would never understand it will be better for Harry if they let things lie. It feels wrong but she follows his orders. Harry's clothes don't fit and his frame is still thin and shunted even after a year of Hogwarts meals. She doesn't imagine they will care much either but the idea that she will get Potter into trouble makes her feel uneasy.

She doesn't find out that Harry is at the Weasley's until his picture appears in the papers alongside Gilderoy. She doesn't find out he had to be rescued from his own home until months later. Dumbledore listens to her rant and rave and insists he must stay there for his own protection but still he won't admit that another war is coming. He tries to say that things will be ok even as a monster stalks the school and students are petrified. The teachers have their suspicions about what is doing it, of course they do, but proving what the creature is and then ridding the castle of it is another matter entirely. Calling in help would cause uproar and looking back Minerva regrets trusting Albus.

She never thought she would live to see the day that Albus was forced from the castle. Then she never thought the Ministry was so incompetent that it would remove Albus and not immediately send in teams of Aurors and Magical Creature Experts to try and find the monster. If the government can't be trusted to protect the school and neither can Albus then Minerva is not sure how they move on. Then there is Harry, who won't ever be the same again. His shoulders sit lower now and yet there is a fiercer glint in his eye. It is like he has resigned himself to something but is determined to face it at the same time. Not yet thirteen years old. It makes Minerva feel many years older herself and more hopeless than she has in years. When did things change? When did the children become more efficient at protecting the school than their teachers? Hours are spent trying to convince Ginny Weasley that it was not her fault, from the end of that school year and well into the next. It pains Minerva to see Ginny retreat into herself and she wishes her brothers would do more to support her.

However, her attention is always divided. Sirius Black was perhaps one of the most gifted students that she ever taught and now he is on the run, and quite possibly heading for Hogwarts. Once again Harry Potter finds himself in the firing line though she hopes it will be a long time before he realises, if he has to realise it at all. 'He is at Hogwarts'. There can be no mistake. A reckless Sirius Black was dangerous enough but an insane one terrifies Minerva.

Then he gets into the castle itself. Minerva has never felt so helpless in her life. She considers retiring. Of all people it is Remus Lupin that insists she stays and that retiring would not benefit the school and should only be a personal decision, not one based on thinking she cannot do her job any longer. She is glad to hear that he is teaching Potter to deal with the dementors and proud to hear that he is making progress. It just sickens her that he needs to. Monsters are protecting the school from a monster she fears she helped create. She taught him and never saw what he was going to become. It should have been the teachers or the dementors who put an end to Black's rampage and instead once again it is Harry, Ron and Hermione who find him. It is children that first face him down. Remus and Severus are too late. Ron has a broken leg and the other two are covered in cuts and bruises and yet they don't appear to regret a single thing. That terrifies her.

Potter's fourth year is a whirlwind of emotions and events that shave many years off Minerva's life of that she is certain. The moment his name comes out of the Goblet she knows the world has, as she has heard Muggle kids say, gone to hell in a hand basket. Of course it is Potter. It is always Potter. He swears that he did not put his name in and Minerva believes him. The child has been through so much already and any fool can see fame is the last thing that Harry wants for himself. Most of the house is ecstatic to have a Champion but it worries her to see Ron distance himself. It worries her more to see that the competition meant to brings schools together has so violently divided her own before it has even properly begun.

Potter keeps his head down but Minerva hears the chatter and the accusations. People bully him but she never catches anyone in person saying anything that crosses enough of a line for her to act. She feels responsible for him. The other schools' champion's have their Headmaster or Headmistress to guide them but Potter doesn't have that. To be fair neither does Diggoy but he is an adult. Potter is a child. Minerva can only do so much but it still seems unfair that both students are aware of their disadvantage and despite Albus trying to convince her Minerva doesn't believe for a moment that Igor or Olympe will play fair.

The teachers all know about the dragons well in advance. They have to. While the Dragon Trainers are trusted to do their job the teachers must be on guard just in case one escapes. The knowledge leaves Minerva conflicted. Harry Potter has not been taught anything that could help him against a dragon in any way that Minerva can think of and yet she is convinced he will complete the task just fine. That terrifies her. Harry Potter is a child and he shouldn't be able to do that. She shouldn't have that much faith in him yet he has faced down Trolls, Basilisks and Dementors. He is becoming a soldier for a war that hasn't come yet. Hermione sticks by Potter and Minerva can't resist holding her back after a lesson one day and telling her that she is proud of her and that Harry needs a friend like her. She looks baffled, as if she had never considered another path. Minerva has never been so proud and as a teacher Hermione is one of the brightest she has taught. Those things say a lot.

The first task comes and Minerva realises she has never felt so nervous since the war. Every other time Potter has been in trouble she has found out during or after the fact. There is either adrenaline to get her through or relief that he did that himself. Now she walks him down to the stadium and struggles to hold herself together let alone encourage him to do the same. He seems smaller than ever as she escorts him to the tent. She offers what support she can but doesn't think he listens. He is hardly taller than the first years making their way to the stands. Her heart hurts as he disappears from sight.

To say she is stunned by his performance is an understatement. The scores outrage her but she feels proud of him and then wonders why she has any right to be. She did nothing for him. None of the amazing things he has done have been due to what she taught him. Later she finds out it was Hagrid who told him about the dragons and part of her wishes it was her. Telling him he has to find a date to the ball and dance is awkward. She puts up a front but can see that Potter is utterly mortified and part of her is glad. Part of him is still his age. Part of him reacts how any fourteen year old would. He leaves the room stammering and blushing and Minerva is thankful that at least part of his childhood has turned out normal. Of course, the whole event is a disaster in Harry's eyes but a victory in Minerva's. It is so very teenage. For a few hours she can celebrate, laugh, dance and forget about the tasks to come.

Watching Chang be followed around by more than one Champion breaks her heart. It can only further divide the Champions if not the school. She learns that Cedric gets their first and worries for Harry. Gossip gives away nothing and she knows that no girl on the arm of Harry Potter would give anything away if they knew. It must be last minute.

It pleases her to see a Gryffindor on his arm but they both look uncomfortable. One does it to not walk alone and the other does it for a status she isn't ready for. They do the best that they can but it is awkward and uncomfortable. It is a shame. A girlfriend would have been a normal thing for Potter to have and might have done him some good. It is another event meant to bring the schools together that goes wrong. Or at least it goes wrong for her Gryffindors. Potter and Weasley take the huff, Patil has disappeared into a throng of French boys and Granger leaves in tears. Despite all that, Minerva herself gets to have some fun for a while and forget her worries. She always manages to forget what an enthusiastic dance partner Albus makes.

The next task passes in a blur. Potter surprises her yet again but Minerva is more focussed on Rita Skeeter and trying to work out how she is getting to the children. Whether Draco, Pansy and their like are being vile or not is beside the point in Mnerva's eyes. Rita should not be quoting them without permission from their parents and she highly doubts either of their parents would approve. Mudslinging is not in the Malfoy nature. They never get so directly involved. The campaign against Potter is terrible and she is proud of the way he doesn't hide. Granger sits by his side despite the headlines and the taunts, even after it explodes into violence, and Minerva worries. By the last task she is not expecting Potter to win but she is expecting him to do well. There are many other things happening around the school to make her worry but she believes this can be a night she can relax a little. She squirms happily in her seat when she realises it is down to the Hogwarts Champions and shares the opinions of the students that really it would be better if they could see what is going on. When Potter does reappear with a body underneath him Minerva freezes for a second and is then rushing forward. He is blathering about Voldemort and Death Eaters and Minerva can't get air into her lunges quickly enough.

It has come.

Albus does his best to control the situation and she allows herself to be ordered around without question. It is strangely comforting. She is the first to notice that Potter has disappeared and leads the charge towards Moody's office. Dumbledore blasts it off its hinges and takes over from there. She tries to insist that Potter needs medical attention but he won't hear of it. The tone in his voice is one she has not heard in over a decade. The flicker of a smile that crosses Potter's face when she is requested to fetch the dog is the only reason that she goes.

The rest of the evening passes in a blur. Voldemort is back. The Order must be reassembled. Potter must remain under guard and on top of that Sirius Black is innocent and been under her nose for months. Again. When she does go to bed, it is with a large drop of whiskey in her tea.

Despite the war and despite their close encounters at Headquarters Minerva really only encounters Harry personally again to hand out his timetable and then deal with him after he gets thrown out of class. She is so proud and yet so frustrated that she could burst so instead she just offers him a biscuit. For most of the year she has to watch him from a distance and try to discourage him from antagonising Umbridge but something inside Harry has changed. He is not a student anymore. He is a child soldier and part of him is preparing to go to war. She is not surprised to hear about his defence group. It is foolish and dangerous but in a way she is glad that the children are taking the threat seriously. They seem to know better than the adults that teach them. That happens too often for Minerva these days. All the students have changed. Some change for the better and some for the worse. There is nothing she can do to protect them when she is trying to keep her own job, and he certainly can't help then from a bed in St Mungos. She feels like she failed them all and wonders if Sirius would be alive if she had been there for Potter to turn to.

Too many die over the summer. It feels strange to be back at the school and doing normal things like handing out timetables and trying to fit her new Sixth Years into classes. They all believe now and every student seems more serious. Some stand taller as if prove a point and others hunch their shoulders down but they all read the paper. The Quibbler appears just as often as the Prophet with students willing to work their way through the waffle for the facts, trusting it to actually get there in the end while the Prophet's reputation is in the dirt. It lies there with the Ministry's. Albus makes her aware that he is having lessons with Potter but refuses to tell her more than that. She only hopes it is something useful but nothing in Potter's test scores indicate he is progressing in any sort of field. In fact in many classes he seems to struggle. Wandless magic is certainly not coming naturally to him.

Things grumble along until the Hogsmeade that truly brings the war to Hogwarts. Together with Severus she inspects the necklace but neither understand the curse entirely. The healers don't understand it either and the letter to Bell's parents is the hardest she has ever written. Potter tries to play Auror but she knows Draco Malfoy was under her watch at the time. However, she can't help but agree that Draco has been acting strangely all year. She just doesn't believe they have enough evidence to act on him but she watches him closer all the same. She watches but clearly not close enough but Dumbledore is already dead before she knows they left the school and that Draco Malfoy was told to hill him. It is when the Order convenes and Severus Snape is named his killer that it all comes out and the floor crumbles beneath her feet.

No one really knows what to do after that. It is the strangest summer she experiences and she desperately wants to be involved in getting Potter to safety but the Order think her place at the school is too important to jeopardise. When he disappears with Weasley and Granger after the wedding Minerva fears for him. She doesn't know what the plan is and she feels lost and confused. Some of the children cower under the Carrow's regime and others fight back. Having to work alongside Severus again sickens her but she does it for the children because every child she manages to keep from torturous detention is a victory. She knows exactly who is responsible for the graffiti and everything else but she says nothing. Sleep evades her worrying about when they will be caught but these are not just childish pranks. They believe in what they are doing and they believe in Potter. Still, she is not sure how long she can do this. She is not sure how many children she can watch crying silently into cups of tea in her office.

It is almost a relief when Potter reappears and brings the war to Hogwarts. Either way things will end. It is a hard decision to lock down the Castle and prepare to fight. Children may die, but death might be the better option than the nightmare they are living. The younger students she sends away but some of the older ones refuse to leave. She can't help but flashback two years to when she ended up hospitalised. She doesn't expect to survive.
It makes her proud to see her house stay and prepared to fight, however seeing her Gryffindors prepare to do what will be needed makes her think of the other houses. Which children will they line up against? Minerva has never been naive and knows that some of the students that have left the school will return with the Death Eaters and try to take the Castle. They will use what they learned under the Carrows against their classmates and their teachers and they won't regret it for a second. In the past, some future Death Eaters were obvious. Lucius Malfoy has a vicious streak a mile wide but others were less obvious. Regulus Black was quiet, timid even, and if any of the Slytherins truly stunned her by turning to You-Know-Who then it was him. Time is running out. She is about to find out. Child soldiers are fighting the war her generation should have finished years ago. They can't fail this time.


109 points Sam/Claw
Tags: *tumblr allowed, character: minerva mcgonagall, creator: ayebydan, form: fic, genre: angst, rating: pg-13
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