Severus never thought he minded the gap. Until he did.
He didn’t mind the gap.
Truly, he didn’t.
Sure, he teased Minerva about it, but only because he was certain she understood the age gap between them wasn’t an issue for him.
How could it have been?
Who else would have had him?
Minerva had him, though, and gladly. Generously.
And he had her.
Until he did.
Until the day when he realised that she had . . . slowed . . . had been slowing for months.
Oh, her wit was as quick, her tongue as sharp as they had ever been, but her usual purposeful stride had, somewhere along the way, become more of a shuffle, and her magic was off.
At first, it was little things, and only with the most complex of spells: a Transfiguration gone slightly awry (he laughed the first time she tried and failed to coax a recalcitrant copy of Insights in Molecular and Cellular Transfiguration to translate itself from German to English), or an attempted reverse-transformation that left her with long whiskers he found both adorable and frightening.
As the mishaps spilled over into less taxing magic – a warming charm that dropped the temperature by ten degrees, an Accio that left the book she’d Summoned putting limply across the sitting-room floor instead of sailing swiftly into her waiting hand – he began to worry.
By the time he managed to coax (read: coerce) her into seeing a Healer, he already knew, if not the specific diagnosis, then the gist of it: she was old. They called it progressive magical senescence, but what it meant was, she was dying.
Minerva’s reaction was predictably practical.
“We’ll need to hire someone,” she said. “Unless you want to move me to the Inverlochy Home for Ancient Mages when the time comes.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” was all he managed to say, and more waspishly than he intended. She smiled that infuriating, enrapturing smile of hers and said no more about it that evening.
He tried, and for a long time, they managed in their accustomed blissful solitude, but the time did come, all too soon for Severus, when she couldn’t be left alone, even for a few minutes, lest her previously strong magic should momentarily reassert itself and set the cottage aflame or Transfigure the annoying neighbour child into a duck.
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