Actions

Work Header

Safe Heaven

Work Text:

Safe heaven

 

1979, London

 

‘So what do you think?’

Minerva was sitting very straight on the edge of the leather sofa, in her voice a slight hint of desperation.

‘What do I think?’ Elphinstone was looking straight into her eyes over his glass of whisky.

‘Yes,’ she blinked, pressing her lips together.

‘Would my opinion weigh in?’ the wizard lifted an eyebrow. ‘Or...?’

‘Or?’

‘Or you just feel like discussing it?’

‘With all sincerity, I have no time for these mind games.’

Minerva reached for her purse, sprang up and headed towards the door.

‘Why are you so uneasy, darling?’ Elphinstone asked unperturbedly.

‘I am not uneasy.’ She turned around, uneasy. ‘Merely... indecisive. That is why I came here.’

‘Then come closer,’ he said, his eyes measuring her up and down. ‘So that I can hear you better.’

Minerva swayed her purse a bit, then took a hesitant step towards him.

‘Closer. I don’t bite.’ The man reached his hand in her direction. ‘That hard.’

She placed her hand into his palm, and he drew her closer, right in front of him.

‘You should rest more,’ he stated incidentally, then he nudged her down with a gentle pull.

Minerva lowered next to him and waited.

‘So if it matters what I say-‘ he started as he offered a glass of drink to her.

‘It always matters what you say.’

Elphinstone made a tsk-tsk sound of disapproval.

‘Yet despite my warning you went with Crouch’s offer to spy for the Ministry...‘

‘Being curious about your opinion does not mean I actually will take...’

‘... and the very dilemma you are facing is...’

‘... the path you suggest.’

‘...a direct consequence of that choice.’

‘I disagree on that.’ Minerva said firmly, ultimately regretting her decision to inquire about his opinion at all. Elphinstone hated the very possibility of her being in danger, let alone putting herself in danger voluntarily and regularly.

‘Because you are not overworked and exhausted?’ He hit the nail on its head. ‘Because you do not feel drained for that you are teaching, functioning as a head of house and being responsible for a great number of minors during the daylight hours, then risking your life spying at night?’

‘I am not doing it every ni-‘

‘Have your services been of use? Valuable?’ She disliked the haughty tone he hit.

‘I suppose.’

‘You do?’

She dropped her eyes and smoothed her skirt.

‘Cancel  the contract. Leave Crouch, leave Moody.’ His voice was soft, sympathetic now. She heard the ice cubes clinging onto each other in his glass.

‘It is not that simple,’ she said finally.

‘I can make it simple for you.’

‘I-‘

‘I have the legal knowledge and the authority to help you settle it in an ethical and prompt manner. ’

‘But I don’t want to quit.’ Minerva retorted stubbornly. ‘We have discussed it several times.’

‘We have.’ He took a sip of whisky. ‘We have.’

He was overtly staring at her, and it disturbed her very much.

‘So what do you think?’ She was trying to sound light.

Elphinstone swirled the ice cubes in his glass. ‘About the position offered to you? About you becoming the deputy headmistress of Hogwarts?

‘Yes.’

‘You should accept it. You are the best candidate, you have been chosen for a reason. I personally have been of the understanding that you want this title more than anything. You seemed to be very much enthusiastic about it.’

‘I still am.’ She sprang up, and started pacing around the room crackling her fingers. ‘But wouldn’t it be too much? All at once...? Helping out the Ministry and being deputy head...?’

‘It certainly would.’

Minerva stopped and turned to face him.

‘You are not supposed to manipulate my decision making, Elphinstone.’

‘Oh, pardon,’ he said with muted sarcasm. ‘I might have just misunderstood your repeated quest for advice.’

‘You cannot know what is too much and what is still bearable for me. Only I can have a well rounded understanding of my own limits.’

‘The reinstitution of the use of the unforgivables in the fight against the death eaters and the ever-perpetuated state of emergency is just the beginning,’ he pointed out calmly, but with emphasis. ‘And when it will be bloody and ruthless for real, when it will be forgotten what we should be standing for and fighting against, and when the only objective remaining will be the annihilation of the Dark Lord and his followers at any cost then... by then you should already be far away from it all.’

‘But it is already everywhere,’ she protested. ‘You cannot be far away from it. It creeps under your skin, it is all around you. You either proactively try to banish it, or passively suffer and let others suffer from it. I do not want to be a bystander.’

‘I understand. I do.’ He paused. But here are people who are trained to do the job you were persuaded into doing. They are payed for facing crime and danger every day and for being expendable if necessary.’

’Sure, but-‘

Elphinstone leaned forward. ‘You are an academician, Minerva. An exceptionally good one. Somebody who happens to have adequate management and leadership qualities. You can make a real and profound difference in that field. You can elevate that school to the next level.’

‘I do not know,’ the witch whispered, feeling a little dazed. She knew he was saying these praises to nudge her to a certain direction, but his words which suggested that he found her capable and up to the task, felt really good.

‘I do,’ Elphinstone said seriously. ‘There is so much more potential in you than being wasted by sleepless nights and unnecessarily elevated stress levels. You should navigate towards where you can expand, not where you contract.’

‘I will think about it.’

‘Why don’t you think about it now?’ The wizard take a sip of whisky.

‘I need... time.’ She gave him an uncertain side look. ‘This choice is not easy. I either give up one of them or need to restructure my life to make space for both of them.’

‘The question is about what you want. Personal crusade aside, what do you want, Minerva?’ Elphinstone asked in an uncompromisingly forthright way. ‘You turned your back on the Ministry once so that you can pursue your career in Hogwarts. Now, what makes you do the exact opposite?’

‘No, you do not understand,’ she protested. ‘I want it all.’

His eyes were screening her face as if he was trying to read her mind.

‘You can’t have it all,’ he declared plainly.

She narrowed her eyes, bearing his stare.

‘Well, watch me then,’ the witch hissed.

‘Who are you trying to prove yourself?’ he asked. His tranquility and painful precision with his questions were about to corner her.

‘Nobody.’

‘Does it disturb you that Moody called you a sissy?’

‘No.’

‘Does it fan your vanity that Crouch says he appreciate your services?’

‘No. My actions have added value. And I am good at this.’ She splashed some of her drink onto his Persian while she was gesturing. ‘I am good at this.’

‘Is that so?’ He lifted his eyebrows questioningly. ‘Because there is a difference between self-confidence and delusion.’

Minerva bit her lip. His words were hurtful. And for a moment she could not decide if he meant them or he was just being controversial for the sake of pointing out the weaknesses of her reasoning.

‘You,’ she said finally. He was the one to whom she had been trying to prove herself.

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘You have been the one who do not believed in me. From the outset. Who has tried to dissuade me from the reconnaissance activity as an animagus. Who has done anything in his power to obstruct my appointment to the task.’

He did not seem disturbed by her revelations the slightest, not even a blink.

‘Do you think I don’t know that you spoke with Crouch and the Minister himself, trying to persuade them not to sign my papers. And I am also aware that you think that I am not enough, not capab-‘

The wizard lifted his hand in protest.

‘Well that last one is not true, for I-‘

‘But guess what, Elphinstone Urquart,’ she said stubbornly. ‘I am. I am enough. And I am good enough. You have just failed to notice it all along. I am-‘

‘Destined to take charge and get things done.’ He stared into her eyes. ‘So I still do not understand why you are thrilled to take orders when you could be the one giving them.’

Minerva was taken aback.

‘You want to prove yourself to me, lass? Is that it? Brilliant. Pull Albus Dumbledore’s act together, and give back structure, discipline and quality self-governance to Hogwarts. I am convinced that you will do a marvelous job and will go down in Hogwarts: a History as a great benefactor. And let Moody and the animagi in his team sacrifice themselves for peace and security,’ he added under his breath dismissively.

She folded her arms and stood in stubborn silence. He had a point, but she was reluctant to admit it.

‘But you are right,’ Elphinstone continued. ‘Being his deputy, I indeed spoke with Bartemius. And I did speak with the Minister. I know what they have in mind, and I do not want you to be part of it.’

‘And why is that?’ she asked cautiously, making sure she still sounded slightly offended, even though her curiosity eclipsed her discontent by then.

‘I fear that-‘ his deep voice broke unexpectedly, and he cleared his throat and dropped his gaze. ‘I fear that you will not see the end of this war.’

He glanced back up at her, but then chose to focus his attention to his now empty glass instead.

‘I- There are things I am not allowed to share with you, but the mere thought of them paralyzes me.’ She barely understood his rusty murmur under his breath. ‘They desperately need people and will do anything to keep such a gifted person in as you are. I have no idea how to... phrase it without...’

He sighed. ‘I wish I could terminate your contract singlehandedly. I wish I had had the audacity to straight up tell the Minister that I do not recommend employing you. I almost did it, I was this, this close, but... it would not have been fair to you.’

Minerva felt a painful emptiness in her chest.

‘You do not seem to comprehend the gravity of...,’ he continued after a long pause. ‘I was content when you first came to me detailing how Crouch wanted to pressure you into this... business, how afraid you seemed to be by the thought of potentially being exploited thanks to your animagus qualities. I was confident in the belief that you would turn them down and walk away.’ He looked at her with what seemed to be for a split second immense sadness in his eyes. ‘I still do not understand why you changed your mind.’

She stayed quiet.

‘I do not intend to undercut you, but by Merlin, I will in case you don’t opt out yourself. I have run out of arguments, and I cannot stop you on the grounds of reason. You leave me no other choice.’

‘And the deputy head position?’ she asked with disappointment. ‘Did I indeed win it on my own merits, or you spoke with Albus Dumbledore as well, so that he would make the optimal decision, and you can have a fallback option?’

‘I have no doubt about his thorough understanding of your professional and managerial qualities.’

‘Did you,’ she asked, her voice filled with doubt, ‘spoke with him about my candidacy?’

The wizard did not speak immediately; he was waiting for a long moment, studying her face before he opened his mouth.

‘He reached out for me for credentials, but he needed no- Minerva, please. He needed no persuasion to make the- Darling...! ...the right decision.’

She was drawing away from him, shaking her head in disbelief. Elphinstone was about to stand, but she lifted a finger.

‘Don’t. You. Dare,’ she whispered, ‘come closer. Don’t you dare touch me. I am not your puppet, I am neither a pawn nor the queen on your chessboard.’

‘Of course you are not.’ His tone was placating and mellow.

‘Then why do you treat me like that?’

He stood up, and walked straight to her.

‘Your metaphor is faulty. You are not on my chessboard, you are the other player across the board. But for now...’, He took the glass out of her hands. ‘Checkmate.’

He stroked her face, but she jerked away angrily.

‘If you do not walk away yourself, let’s say, within a week, I am going to get your contract terminated,’ he continued. ‘And I won’t care if you never speak to me again, because I will know that I did the right thing and protected you and those who- Min- Minerva...?’

He was still speaking when she turned around and marched away. She slammed his front door behind herself with all the force she could gather.

 

‘I am not available tonight,’ Minerva said coldly when she opened her office door, and found Elphinstone’s robust figure standing on her threshold.

‘Good evening.’ The wizard nodded curtly, and stepped into the office, taking his hat off.

‘I said... Elphinstone, I have to go out tonight on order,’ she hissed.

‘I order you not to go anywhere,’ he said as he ran his hand through his salt and pepper beard, his voice exhausted.

She was astonished by his audacity.

‘And who do you think you are to give me orders?’

‘I am here in an official capacity,’ he cut her short calmly, his presence and charisma filling the room’s atmosphere immediately. ‘And I shall ask you to address me politely regardless of amid what circumstances we parted the last time we... ehm. Mr. Fenwick, if you may...’ He casually turned around and gestured a man in, who was waiting outside and who Minerva had missed to notice.

‘Good evening, Ma’am.’ Benjy Fenwick, to who she regularly reported on her missions shuffled himself into the office.

‘May I inquire about the reason and purpose of your visit, gentlemen?’ She asked, now feeling somewhat nervous.

‘Ms. McGonagall... I-‘. Fenwick stopped, and gave a hesitant look to the older wizard. ‘Mr. Urquart, would you like, sir to...?’

‘No, Mr. Fenwick, go ahead.’ Elphinstone looked sombre and afflicted at the same time. ‘Go ahead.’

‘Ms. McGonagall,’ the younger wizard turned to her with a menacingly ceremonial expression on his face. ‘I regret to inform you that your brother Robert McGonagall Jr. was attacked and fatally wounded by a group of what we presume to be Death Eaters earlier this evening. Mr. McGonagall’s wife has been promptly notified and the lady has already identified the corpse, but since it is suspected that the attack was commissioned due to, or rather as a form of retaliationiation for your involvement with the reconnaissance activity Ministry of Magic, we must inform you from first hand.’

Minerva was hit by an immense wave of chaotic emotions. The word corpse kept echoing in her head, the ‘s’ sound at the end sizzling cruelly. She stood in front of the men dazed, but seemingly composed. She was not prepared to hear what they just notified her about. She felt so cold, so fragile, so desperate.

‘You must have been watched for some time now, and the attack is probably intended as an incentive to dissuade you from continuing your precious and highly valuable engagement on behalf of the Ministry,’ Fenwick continued. ‘These incidents represent an unfortunate pattern we have observed in recent weeks. You are not the only reconnaissance cooperator who has been targeted in such an unscrupulous way.’

Minerva stood in silence.

‘But of course, the Department of Magical Law Enforcement counts on your continuing-‘

‘That is quite enough, Mr. Fenwick, thank you very much,’ Elphinstone snubbed him, silencing him with a look which suggested they had not agreed on the delivery of Fenwick’s last sentence.

‘It is a rather delicate issue, which probably upsets the Professor greatly, for which it should be handled with care.’ He addressed his words then to Minerva. ‘You will be put under surveillance starting from tomorrow morning, 9 a.m. sharp, so that your safety can be guaranteed. At this point it is highly probable that you have been identified, and so until further instruction and for the sake of preventing further attacks on people who are close to you, the reconnaissance activity you have been involved in is suspended.’

She nodded.

‘In case we could help you in any way, Madam, please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Fenwick.’

Madam nodded again. Elphinstone was standing arm length from her, yet he felt being miles away. Minerva looked at him. He looked indifferent, serious, solid as a rock.

‘Do you perhaps have any questions?’ he asked with a total lack of compassion in his voice.

She shook her head.

‘Well, then,’ Fenwick flashed a sad, comforting smile at her. ‘We are leaving now, Ms McGonagall and... allow me to express the Ministry’s deepest condolences.’

They left her in shambles. She closed the door behind them, walked back to her desk, sit down, and remaining impossibly still, stared in front of herself. She felt an odd, swirling, muted pain in her chest, and simultaneously an inexplicable, vast emptiness. She could not think, could not move, and it felt like her sense of time left her completely.

Then there was a familiar knock on the door.

She felt too weak, too scattered to answer it, just kept on staring at the surface of her desk. The large wooden door creaked as it opened then closed; heavy steps approached her, and the back of a large, warm hand touched her face. She leaned into it.

‘Stand up,’ she heard Elphinstone’s voice which was more hoarse and gingerly than usual. ‘Come on, darling.’

She obeyed him automatically, and felt his arms enveloping her immediately. He kissed her head, and held her tight.

‘Did you know it? Did you know that people I love were in danger and you remained silent on it?’ Her eyes were annoyingly dry, void of evidence of her pain.

‘Yes,’ he whispered. ‘Yes I did.’

Her fist clutched onto his robe. She wanted to hate him so much, but she could not help putting the blame on herself as his words of warning flashed into her mind. He had tried to tell her as much as he had been able to, and she had stubbornly defied him over and over again.

‘I was not sure you were among the cooperators whose identity have been discovered, but I was aware of the possibility, and of what happened to those whose cover had indeed been blown. Either way, it was explicitly forbidden to inform you. I... am sorry.’ He finished somewhat clumsily.

‘Please tell me that it is not real,’ she whispered after a long moment of silence. ‘That it is not happening, and only you orchestrated it in order to make me change my mind about spying.’

His hand smoothed her back, and he kissed her hair again.

‘I promise I won’t be mad,’ she said with a break in her voice as she tilted her head up, searching for his eyes. ‘I promise I won’t be mad at you if you admit it being scare-mongering. I promise...’

‘Oh, Darling,’ Elphinstone’s pitying whisper was worse than a knife through her heart.

 

She was sobbing silently, falling in and out of consciousness in his arms on a hastily conjured sofa until the sun came up. Neither of them spoke, both of them were crouching under the weight of guilt and the cruel harshness of reality. He held her for eternity, cradling her to sleep, wishing to be able to turn back time. Minerva was not resting peacefully. She jerked in her sleep numerous times, then suddenly woke up broken out in pearlescent sweat on her forehead, not knowing where she was, and kept repeating that she dreamt of being informed about Robert’s death, desperately seeking his reassurance that it was just a dream.

He was reluctant to leave her alone, but at 8.30 a.m. he had to get up unless he wanted to be late from the office or to appear on the surveillance report.

‘Heart’s dearest,’ he called softly, and Minerva pulled closer to him in her half-asleep state. ‘I need to go.’

He ran the back of his hand over her cheek, rosy and feverish, the remnant of her nightmares.

‘Don’t leave,’ she breathed almost inaudibly. ‘I can’t... do this alone.’

Elphinstone felt a lump in his throat. He swallowed, but the sensation did not vanish.

‘I will come back,’ he promised.

‘Stay, please,’ she called again, sleepy and fragile. 

‘I can’t. My schedule is full for today.’ He swept the sweaty locks out of her face, while silently admitting to himself that he had no idea how she could have been feeling. He had never lost a sibling, and he had never been close to them anyway. ‘Let me bring you a glass of water.’

‘No, please stay a little longer. Just ten more minutes. Just ten minutes. Just ten.’

At 8.50 a.m., having managed to detangle himself from her arms - which was an undertaking in itself, considering that she had fallen asleep again - Elphinstone penned an unsigned letter to Professor Dumbledore in a rush, asking to be lentinent with her not being able to show up today to hold classes, and left a pitcher of cold water by the side of the sofa. He looked back from the door, and had to take all the willpower he could muster not to turn back and try to soothe her broken heart.

 

Elphinstone could not remember the last time he had presented himself in such a poor condition at the Department. He, the he deputy head of the DMLE and head of the Wizengamot Administration Offices arrived 15 minutes late (he had never been late) asking for toothbrush and toothpaste from his surprised secretary, (Yes, now, Mrs. Pearce, you heard it quite right.)   and felt unusually disconcerted and grumpy because of sleep deprivation.

‘Was she good?’ Moody threw a stack of parchments with a loud thud onto his desk.

‘I beg your pardon?’ Elphinstone lifted his gaze with unconcealed annoyance. Their relationship had been strained from the beginning due to mutual antipathy and it culminated when Elphinstone, the head of WAO, not Moody, the head of the Auror Office had been chosen as deputy head of the DMLE.

‘Same robe as yesterday, unbalmed beard, dark circles, brushing your teeth in the men’s restroom. And you were late. I wanted to talk to you some time after eight, but you weren’t here yet.’ Moody slumped onto the chair across Elphinstone’s desk. ‘Good to see some of us have time to wander the nights of London and get lucky amid such outrageous overtime requirements. I hope she was worth it.’

‘Leave my office, would you.’ Elphinstone’s voice was rigid and repelled. He was not about to put up with him today.

Moody did not stood up. He comfortably settled on the chair and looked him in the eye.

‘Why the hell were you the one who went with Fenwick yesterday, eh?’

‘Because it is required by regulation that two perso-.’

I am the Head Auror, I supervise the reconnaissance activity. It has nothing to do with the WAO section.’

‘Well there was an auror,’ Elphinstone said, forcing calmness onto himself. ‘There was the auror present who has been working with the affected-‘

‘But the-‘

’How do you,’ his voice cut with coldness through the air, ‘intend to get my explanation, if you keep interrupting me.’

Moody threw his hands in the air in a theatrical fashion.

‘I was there representing the DMLE leadership,’ Elphinstone said plainly.

‘For how long has the leadership been lowering itself to visit average Janes?’

‘I do not understand why you do not go and ask Bartemius about his decision making instead of wasting my precious time. He was the one who appointed me to the visit.’

‘You are a sly, old, fox who is wrapping them around your fat finger with your biased fake pacifist advices and rhetoric. Bartemius does not tell me shit now that you have made him believe that the way I handled the Rosier case amounted to encroachment.’

‘But did you get suspended?’

Moody pulled a face.

‘No, you did not. If it had depended on me, you would have. You overestimate my power, Alastor.’ Elphinstone laid back in his leather chair, pulling his lips to a Slytherin trademarked half-smile. ‘But since you are still on probation - which might have been the reason to be honest why you were not an option yesterday - if I were you, I would not speak to me like that.’

‘Because what?’

‘Because your tone and choice of words lack common courtesy and basic human decency and I do not like it, that’s what.’

‘Are you threatening me, Urquart? Do you think I don’t know why you were so eager to go to Hogwarts?’

Elphinstone’s heart skipped a beat behind his poker face. His involvement with Minerva was unbeknownst to everyone else apart from the pair of them, and he, who considered himself the epitome of the law- and regulation-abiding citizen was pretty sure that they might have been overstepping some sort of line now that his department employed her again. Therefore there might have been some collusion, but he was too cowardly to check it.

‘You want to court Dumbledore before the Wizengamot makes its decision on the unlawful nature of the use of the unforgivables by the aurors. And you want to cast me aside in doing so.’ Moody’s eyes narrowed in disgust. ‘Death of a next of kin, eh? Oh, allow us to express our condolences. Excellent pretext. You don’t give a damn about that animagus, you just want to push your agenda.’

‘Well then, let’s see who is lobbying more successfully,’ Elphinstone said in a tone which, he was sure, came across as arrogant, but that was the only way he managed to mask the enormous relief he felt by Moody’s misguided reasoning.

‘And by the way,’ the Head Auror said standing up. ‘The Cat’s work is not suspended.’

‘It is. More so, it is automatically by (4) §32 of the 1946 Law Regulating Magical Reconnaissance Activity.’

‘Well then, let’s see who is lobbying more successfully, shall we, You Honour?’ Moody snorted.

‘It is not something lobby-able, it is something you are abided by.’ The ‘you idiot’ was silent at the end of his sentence.

Moody leaned onto the desk. ‘She is good. She is one of the best ones. You mistook me for a fool if you think I will let her go.’

 

He did not return to her that day. The stakes were too high. She was put under supervision from 09.00 a.m. sharp the very day he left her office, and he did not want to risk it. But then Moody’s accusation actually bode well with his own intentions, and so he indeed asked for an appointment from Albus Dumbledore on the unforgivables. Fortunately he saw eye to eye on the matter with the Headmaster, but it also meant that no further persuasion campaign was needed to visit Hogwarts. On his way out he stopped on the first floor with an aching in his heart.

‘How are you?’ he asked quietly when Minerva opened the door.

Only three days had past since their last encounter, but she looked as if she had not slept for a week and suddenly had shed at least 10 pounds. She looked fragile and broken, but she was dressed properly (in black from head to toe), her hair was in a perfect, plump ballet bun, and she even wore a whiff of delicate perfume.

‘Miserably.’

The witch invited him and swayed dangerously as she led him inside.

‘Oh, I... thank you,’ she mumbled when Elphinstone caught her. Her body felt limp and weak in his arms. She had been dead tired even before the emotional shock, he could tell, and she needed some serious rest.

‘I quit spying. At least for a while,’ she explained when Elphinstone handed her a cup of tea. ‘How long do you think I could be suspended?’

‘As long as you wish. We just need to file a request.’

She nodded.

He pinched his trousers and sat next to her. ‘Tell me you do not have to teach for a while.’

‘I took a day off afterwards, but teaching helps, I feel.’ Her gaze trailed off. ‘It does.’

The wizard placed his palm on her thigh, giving her a reassuring squeeze. He was about to suggest a week worth of break, but he was taken by surprise by how skinny her thigh felt compared to last time he had touched it.

‘Do you eat properly, Darling?’

‘Yes.’

‘When was the last time you ate?’ He stroked her arm tenderly.

‘I had breakfast in the morning.’

‘How much?’

‘Seriously, Elphinstone?’ She rolled her eyes at his fatherly attitude. ‘A slice of toast with jam.’

It was long after working hours by then. Elphinstone folded his eyebrows.

‘Let’s have something. A biscuit, you have a great selection. How can you order food from the kitchen?’

‘I’m not hungry,’ she sank back in her seat.

‘But I am,’ the wizard insisted patiently.

‘You can find the biscuits in the-‘

‘No. Something substantial.’ Elphinstone sighed and gave her a worried look. ‘You just collapsed into my arms minutes ago. Have you been teaching with a piece of toast in your stomach?’

‘I am not hungry.’

‘Then don’t claim you eat properly, for Merlin’s sake,’ he wagged his head.

‘I am not hungry,’ she repeated.

Elphinstone gave up. ‘All right.’ He was not there to save her from herself.

Minerva held his careworn gaze for a while then reached for him. ‘I was waiting for you. You did not come back.’

He knew very well what those words meant. You let me down, I told you I could not do it alone, yet you left me.

He took her hand and kissed the back of it. ‘I am here now.’

 

They woke to a beautiful Saturday morning. Elphinstone was watching her as the rising sun casted a golden line onto her face. He had no idea what kind of explanation he would give if anybody questioned him on his second sojourn in a week, but it did not matter in that moment as he was observing the apple of his eye finally sleeping, peacefully curled up in his arms.

She returned with a huge heap of food from the Great Hall, but was poking her breakfast around on her plate.

‘What would make you eat?’ the wizard asked with a sigh.

‘Some appetite would do,’ she shrugged uninterestedly.

‘I am not going to leave you here knowing that you starve yourself.’

‘And why aren’t you eating?’ Minerva took a sip of tea which Elphinstone had loaded heavily with milk and honey in order to smuggle some fuel at least into her drink.

‘These were all made by house elves, I suppose.’

‘Yes, they were.’ Minerva could not suppress a smile at his facial expression. It was so inexplicably amusing even amid her miserable condition. Elphinstone was sickened by the fact that ‘untidy, slovenly creatures’ might have touched the food he was requested to swallow.

‘I will eat if you eat.’ The man offered a buttered piece of bread to her.

‘Oh, wow. That is... quite a big sacrifice from your part, I must admit.’ Her eyes narrowed suspiciously in a kitten-like fashion, then she slowly leaned forward and took a bite.

She hold onto his wrist so that she could steady his hand, and took another bite, keeping her beautiful eyes on him. A corner of her mouth touched his thumb; butter smeared onto the Cupid’s bow of her upper lips and she licked it off with her little, pink tongue like a cat.

Stop, you are going to go straight to hell for these thoughts’, he silently cursed himself and all the associations popping up in his head, induced by the sight and the sensation her touch gave him. He was disappointed by his innate, ungentlemanly selfishness. She is broken and grieving and you are an utter jerk.

‘Another  one?’ Elphinstone asked when she finished.

She agreed, and he placed another piece (this time with honey) onto the plate in front of her.

‘But it’s your turn now,’ she said unexpectedly, picking up the slice.

‘I would rather have something which is less likely to stuck in my beard. Honey, you see...’ he squinted at her uncomfortably.

Minerva picked up a croissant from a pile, offering it to him. He blinked at her in slight confusion, and was about to took it from her hand. He did not know if she expected him to eat from her hands, but it did not feel right at that moment.

‘No, no cheating, sir,’ she snatched it away from him then shuffled closer, and broke down a small piece of the croissant.

Her fingertips were soft on his lips as she was feeding him. She then removed crumbles from his mustache with such delicacy he almost shivered. He was not sure anymore he was construing eroticism into her actions.

Minerva flashed him a sad smile, wanting to say something, but then started to blink back tears and quickly turned away. She picked up the toast with honey and munched on it joylessly. It took ages for her to finish. Elphinstone saw a teardrop sliding down on her cheek. He was so grateful he had not taken their intimate moment further. She was just emotionally needy and lost, which was not something he got to witness often in her.

‘I did not even mention it,’ she said swirling the tea around in her mug. ‘The funeral will be tomorrow. My father will preach the sermont. It must feel terrible... burying you own child...’ She was staring at her mug.

Robert McGonagall Sr. was a Protestant minister around the same age as Elphinstone.

‘Robert was his favourite. The youngest, the one who was named after him. He was... quite a surprise child, my mother was told she could not have another one without jeopardizing either her or the baby‘s life. He is... well was more than seven years younger than me. I even taught him at Hogwarts for two years, did you know that?’ she asked turning towards him.

‘No.’ All Elphinstone had heard about Robert Jr. from Minerva was that he was irresponsible with his finances and that he was not always faithful to his muggle-born wife who had moved out with the kids twice, but she always returned. Elphinstone had met Robert Jr. only once and he had been taken aback by how disrespectfully he had been talking to his sister. Elphinstone himself clearly preferred the mellow and jovial brother of hers, Malcolm, a fellow Ministry official at the agricultural section.

‘We had so many disagreements later in life, but I have several fond memories of him I will always cherish.’ She drank her tea reluctantly. ‘I knew what I risked with these missions, but-‘

‘No, no, no,’ he hushed her. ‘Don’t wander there.’

‘No, really, I...’

‘He was not murdered because of you, Minerva,’ Elphinstone said seriously.

‘This is quite a brave stretch, don’t you think?‘

He was studying her for a long moment, before he made his decision.

‘This came while you were in the Great Hall.’

Having performed several magic on it to make it accessible, he unfolded a letter to her. The parchment sizzled in green light at his wand motions.

‘It has been double checked, your identity and cover are still intact. Robert was in heavy debt to a group of people closely associated with Death Eaters. It is presumed that they wanted to force him to pay the dues by cooperating with them. He refused.’

Elphinstone saw the enormous relief on her face and the immediate, overwhelming shame followed by it. His death was not on her. She buried her face in her palms.

‘But you should not know about it at this point. Darling... darling please listen to me. I know but... please.’

He lifted her chin and drilled his eyes into hers. ‘You probably won’t be notified about this just yet, therefore if you want to file for indeterminate suspension pleading on the immediate risk of your loved ones, you should do it now. I know somebody who can help with he technicalities. But do not mention me to him.’

Minerva nodded, her eyes huge and red and wet.

Elphinstone briefly brushed his thumb over her cheek, then folded the letter.

‘Excuse me.’ She stood up wiping her tears and left him at the table.

 

It seemed that Minerva managed to came to terms with his brother’s death more quickly and far more healthily once she knew that she was not the one responsible for his misfortune. Grief had worn her out, but thankfully she stopped losing any more weight. And what was more important, she was afraid enough to risk her loved ones’ life and refused to spy for some time for the Ministry. Her supervision was over - even though she did not know it yet -, so she could fell asleep in Elphinstone’s embrace every night. He came to her straight from work for another week after the funeral.

‘Have you eventually accepted the deputy head position?’ Elphinstone asked one night as she was resting her head and a soft palm on his wide chest.

Robert Jr.’s death seemed to bring them closer, to make another wall fall between them. This was another degree of intimacy, Minerva letting him see her being that vulnerable, letting a constant, physical contact happening between them. Before it would have been unimaginable. It was special and Elphinstone knew it. She had always resisted hugs, kisses, any physical display of affection from him, unless at those rare occasions when they made love. D uring those times she was relaxed and receptive and pliant and endlessly trusting. But before the magic flared up and after it settled, she usually was stiff and uninviting, and downright avoided his proximity. Sparks were prone to fly rather easily between them, and Elphinstone knew she was afraid of everything inside of and about herself she could not control. Instead, she shut off and shut him out in an attempt to mute things. And so his Sisyphus-like efforts had to start again every time after she got dressed. The fact that she needed him now, that she wanted and allowed him to be there for her was warming his heart.

‘I have not talked about it to Albus since... Not really,’ she shrugged, and absent-mindedly started to draw little, tickling circles onto his chest.

‘But you still intend to accept it?’

She did not answer.

‘Confirm it to him,’ he encouraged her. ‘Do you want me to-‘

‘No.’ She lifted her head from his chest. ‘Please do not get involved in this any further. I want this to be my achievement alone.’

‘It is.’ He blinked at her.

‘I don’t need your patronage, Elphinstone. In any form. I know you would like to help me, but I want to feel capable without your help. It looks like you are pushing my chariot because I... we are on good terms.’

‘Why wouldn’t I do anything for you when you are the most gorgeous creature I have ever met.’ He ran his hand over her long ponytail to the very tip of it. ‘So wickedly intoxicating.’

Their eyes met.

‘I love you.’

‘I know,’ she said seriously, not breaking eye contact. ‘I know.’

 

‘All that effort in vain,’ Moody wagged his head sarcastically.

‘In vain?’ Elphinstone asked, paying attention half-heartedly as he was trying to open his office door.

‘In vain.’

‘The Wizengamot ruled that the use of the unforgivables should be suspended, because the conduct is in collusion with at least three internation- Would you move out of my way? Thank you.’ He pushed the handle. ‘At at least three international conventions, which stipulate clear obligations for us. I see it as a net victory.’

‘Yes, congratulations on that one, but, the Minister is having none of this business.’ The auror threw a Daily Prophet Special at Elphinstone. ‘Fresh outta the oven. I hope he consulted with at least Crouch on this.’

 

‘Withdrawal from the conventions? Is that his solution?’ Elphinstone asked disparagingly. ‘And why do I have to be informed about it by Moody?’

‘It was an impulse decision the Minister made.’ Crouch was unbothered behind his desk.

‘While I reached my office from the courtroom? The ruling was declared only 20 minutes ago. This announcement must have been prepared in advance.’ His voice was measured, but there was something menacing about it. ‘If I may inquire, has it taken you by surprise this much as well?’

‘The ruling was not favorable, not compatible with what we needed.’

‘Those conventions have been ratified. Their content is part of our legal system.’

Crouch pedantically pinched a feather resting on his sleeve and knuckled it away. His discomfort was tangible.

‘I ask you, Bartemius as your former instructor and friend,’ Elphinstone drew the parchment Crouch was pretending to observe from under his hands, ‘why can’t we accept the reality which is binding us by the rule of law?’

The Head of Department cleared his throat and finally lifted his gaze. ‘And I answer you as your current superior, Elphinstone. If you do not like how the table is set, turn over the table.’

‘It is one way of looking at it.’ Elphinstone was profoundly disappointed by his answer. ‘But it is ethically more than problematic and sets a dangerous precedent for the future.’

‘It is only one convention.’

‘Three. Three conventions. Until comes another, how did you phrase it, impulse decision. This department is full of lawyers and you were uninterested to educate yourself about what you advise the Minister on.’ His voice was carrying more authority than that of Crouch, and this time he was not intending to mask it, even if it exacerbated the situation.

‘I understand that for such people of the law as you are it might be unsettling to witness deviation from the rules of the game.’ Crouch leaned back in his chair and switched to a rather monotonous tone as if he repeated lines learned by heart. ‘But if we insist on playing on a heavily tilted field, hence according to rules which favour them, we are already disadvantaged. And we cannot afford to lose the trust of those witches and wizards who are exposed to the everyday cruelty of He Who Must Not Be Named. We must fight the dark forces effectively.’

‘We must. But we also should be careful not to become another form of it in the process. How convenient, I ask you, it is to imperio to or torture somebody to admit a crime. How convenient it is to kill off somebody without giving them a chance at a fair trial to explain their side of the story. Just label them as suspected Death Eaters and you are free to act.’ Elphinstone glanced down at his boss across the desk.

‘This is above you and above this department. A political decision has been made.’ Crouch stood up. He was much shorter than his deputy. ‘A political decision has been made and we shall stand united behind it. No dissenting opinions.’

Elphinstone wagged his head and threw the newspaper onto the desk.

‘I am not going to trust you blindly if you withhold crucial information from me, Bartemius. I respect your circle of authority, but how do you expect me to step in your place void of knowledge when you need to be substituted.’

‘We have been working together for long enough for you to know that such situations like the one which occurred today, are exceptions. You are a formidable ally who I refuse to lose. You have always acknowledged your lost battles with grace, and I am confident that this time will be no exception either.’

‘When I lose this battle, I will acknowledge it.’

‘It is done. It. Is. Done.’ Crouch beat the surface of the desk with his fist at every word to give emphasis to them. He clenched his jaw, then swallowed and promptly rearranged his facial expressions. ‘I expect you to bear yourself accordingly.’

‘Certainly,’ Elphinstone said slowly and unperturbably.

‘We have much more important issues to discuss.’ Crouch went around his desk, adjusting his cuff links. ‘I want you to oversee the the civilian reconnaissance activity. Or rather, to oversee Moody overseeing it. He is an excellent auror, but as Head Auror, his methods are troublesome at times. His office has became too independent on a number of cases, and now that they can expect even more room for maneauvre, we should prevent them from becoming too autonomous. We must not make mistakes under the higher degree of responsibility this department is going to be vested with shortly. I want things to run flawlessly. Flawlessly.’

 

‘Two researches of mine were published this year, I became member of the Editorial Board of Transfiguration Today, I have been chosen to be the next deputy head of one of the most prestigious magical educational institutions on the globe, and yet... I feel this, this vast emptiness and idleness inside. Why?’

‘Because the entire experience is tainted by your brother’s passing.’

They were dining at a London restaurant, celebrating Minerva’s appointment, but instead of high spirits, there was a depressed mood around.

‘You are going to do a marvelous job and be able to shoulder the responsibility it comes with.’

‘I am.’ She dabbed the corner of her mouth with a napkin. ‘I have been the most qualified applicant. I am aware of it. But it does not make me any more excited at this point.’

‘It will, just as excited you used to be when you submitted your application three months ago. And there is something else.’ Elphinstone looked her in the eye. ‘Albus Dumbledore trusts you and listens to you. And while you have this weird sense of loyalty and admiration towards him, your soul is not for sale and he knows it. Do you have any idea how precious it is when you can support and influence your own boss at the same time?’

‘Not really, I was just taking orders under you.’ She smiled mockingly.

‘Because- Come on...!’ The corner of his mouth twitched. ‘Because you knew little about the subject which I was already master of. But you have two decades of first hand experience of how a school functions. I am not saying you can outshine Dumbledore, or that he will act according to your advice, I am saying that you cannot be fooled and your contribution will certainly be valuable.’

‘Sometimes I am just listening to you and wondering how you can get your insights so accurate.’

‘I observe a lot. This is my hobby, this is what I do in my free time. You know that I have no friends to socialize and spend time with.’ Elphinstone gave her a rare smile of his. ‘But jokes aside, please do not let your loyalty ahead of your integrity.’

‘Why would I?’

‘Because Dumbledore has always been a role model to you, and you are rather heavily indebted to him. So be careful.’

‘He is a decent man.’

‘Well, I personally happen to highly doubt it, but all right.’

‘You know, I am quite surprised,’ she remarked sarcastically, ‘that you have never been jealous of him.’

‘Why would I be?’ he asked contemptuously. ‘He is about half a century older than you and homosexual.’

Minerva almost spit her wine out.

‘It is an open secret,’ he shrugged, offering her a napkin.

‘You are so incredibly tactless.’

‘With all sincerity, you asked me.’

‘I did not mean it.’ Her eyes sparkled with indignation as she snatched the napkin from his hand. ‘This is a private matter of his if it is indeed how... he is.’

Minerva remembered Elphinstone telling her once that he did not care what sort of consensual activity ‘people of such inclination’ do behind closed doors, but he himself was ‘disgusted and repulsed’ by the mere idea of touching or being touched by a man. Although he had never gave her the impression that he considered ‘those with different sexual preference from the majority’ inferior in other walks of life, and although he refused that he would be homo- or bi-phobic, she suspected him to look down heavily on ‘those people’s particular deficiency’.

‘It is.’

Minerva sighed.

‘I am sorry.‘ Elphinstone grumbled. ‘What would you prefer to talk about?’

He was eyeing her with concern. She was fidgeting with her napkin, then opened her mouth, then closed it. Then started all over again.

‘May I... may I ask you who knows about the involvement of mine with the Ministry?’ Minerva asked finally.

The wizard leaned forward and lowered his voice so much that she could barely hear him. ‘Crouch, Moody, Fenwick, myself and an administrator at the WAO.’

‘Who is that?’ Minerva whispered back.

‘I cannot tell you that, but the person has signed an oath of secrecy.‘

‘How come that some identities have been disclosed, while others not?’ she whispered.

‘We should not discuss it here.’ He sit back on his chair.

‘But was it the administrator who-?’

‘No.’ It was a peremptory, definitive no.

She took a look around.

The place was a neat and demurely high end restaurant. The voice of the guests dissolved in a swirling, weaving murmur, the clinching of cutlery further giving the flow an inconsistent rhythm.

‘Can’t you feel that this war leave us all rigid and frightened, hopeless and paranoid?’ the witch asked looking on. ‘All people do is suppress. They do not dare let their emotions expand, forge closer connections. All they do is cling to what is past therefore safe, what cannot be hurt or ruined.’

She looked at him.

‘Everything can turn into dust within a moment. One day we were celebrating Robert’s birthday, a month later he was... We are sitting now in this restaurant, having a chat about past and future achievements, trying to forget at least for an hour that wizards are being tortured and killed out there. What guarantees that we will...?’

She reached across the table and took his hand.

‘That we will...?’ he asked on a low voice staring at their hands.

But she neither gave an answer, nor finished her sentence.

‘Do you feel safe?’ Something was glistening in her eyes. ‘You are Pureblood.’

‘I do not feel unsafe, but what I witness and hear unsettle me,’ he admitted.

‘I don’t feel safe.’ She meant it. ‘Not anymore. I am not afraid, but I don’t feel safe.’

Elphinstone squeezed her hand. ‘If you married me, I could-‘

‘Your blood status would not be able to protect me.’

‘It will, and that’s exactly the point.’

‘Well, for how long? I will forever be an outcast in their eyes because of my father. My father, who is the reason I exist, his shadow looms over me like a boggard in this world. Whatever I say or do I am his daughter, therefore conceived in sin. Do you know how it feels to be looked down upon irrespective of your true worth?’

He did not know how he should respond. Of course his privileged self had never encountered such a situation.

‘All has become so elusive,’ she held onto his hand somewhat stronger. ‘And what a terribly painful thing it is to acknowledge that somebody so close to you can slip away and will never come back to you. Will never talk to you, laugh with you, never again will they warm your heart.’

There was infinite sadness in her eyes.

‘Why do you think I was so much against your involvement with the Ministry?’ He hesitated, but cracked the joke nevertheless gesturing towards his hair and beard. ‘Look, I turned all grey as a result of the constant worrying.’

It made her smile. ‘Aging looks good on you.’

He kissed her hand. ‘Liar.’

‘You have no less charm than you used to have, but you have become even more handsome.’

‘And yet you just turned down another marriage proposal. Alas, you miss out on so much, you have no idea.’

The waiter returned and she pulled her hand back in embarrassment. For a couple of moments she had forgotten about the world around them, and as soon as she recognized the garçon as one of her former students, it seemed to be a bigger mistake than usual.

‘I don’t understand. Why did you asked for the bill, we haven’t ordered the main course yet,’ Elphinstone frowned.

‘It was incredibly awkward. That boy was a student of mine three years ago.’

The wizard still looked at her questioningly.

‘I said I found you charming and handsome. He should not have heard it. And you kissed my hand and talked about marriage.’

‘I am sure it was obvious to him that we were just complimenting each other in a humorous fashion.’

‘Well I am sure it was not. Either way, do not tip him,’ she said darkly and Elphinstone laughed.

 

‘I planned this evening somewhat longer,’ he admitted as they stepped outside. ‘Shall we find another restaurant?’

She shook her head.

‘What would you like to do?’

‘Talk. Let’s go somewhere we can talk.’

 

He took a seat at the leather sofa in his parlor with a low moan. ‘I am listening.’

Minerva sat beside him, paused for a second, then went ahead and curled up in the position they had mastered to perfection in the past couple weeks. Her head on his chest, her legs pulled up in his lap, her arm across his broad waist. She adored the way he could hold her, let her nuzzle up to him, stroke her skin. Feeling his protective strength around her, lulling herself into the illusion that everything was going to be all right... She felt so needy of comforting physical contact with him, he had no idea.

‘So that is what you would like to do.’ He could not help but smile when she started purring. He kissed her hair. ‘Whenever you are ready, I am listening.’

Ten minutes passed, twenty minutes passed, thirty, forty. The room was peaceful and silent. She did not speak. Her body felt nice and warm on his.

‘Heart’s Dearest, are you sleeping?’ he murmured, fondling her thigh.

She shook her head and got herself more comfortable, making Elphinstone gasp.

‘That is quite... not the right spot. Move a... move a little, darling... there you go.’ The raw shock of being touched so damn well at where one would not want to be touched with a woman in one’s lap ran through his body in tight ripples.

He had been attempting to be mindful about not showing any signs of desire for her in the past couple weeks of hardship, so that she would continue trusting him enough to let him close. He had had a couple of uncomfortable moments of morning situations while she had still been sleeping in his arms, but those - short of direct friction - had been handled with long years of experience and breathing techniques.  She shifted again, and he had to admit that he would not be able to take it any longer without his body showing obvious and uncontrollable signs of excitement.

‘Would you mind sitting up?’ he asked perhaps a little more tensely than he intended.

‘Why?’ she asked wide-eyed, pushing herself up.

‘It was just not comfortable anymore.’

‘Did I numb a limb?’ She did not understand his sudden change of heart.

‘Not quite,’ he grumbled avoiding her eyes.

‘I am sorry.’ She sounded regretful. ‘I must have been burdensome and needy recently. I take too much without asking. I really do think it’s time for me to leave.’

‘Wait.’ His already deep voice fell an octave. ‘You misunderstand.’

Elphinstone did that automatic movement of tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, and Minerva knew immediately what was coming. His hand wandered onto her hips and she did not resist as he pulled her into his lap, and made her straddle him. His touch was different from those comforting ones in the past weeks. It was unmistakenly sexual, and her heart got caught in her throat just like the last time he had touched her like that.

‘What would feel right to you?’ he asked as he kissed into the nook of her neck.

She felt some sort of dizzying warmth spreading through her body from the very point his lips touched her. ‘This... this feels right,’ she gasped out.

The wizard removed her hairpins, and shook her locks free. He had made no secret about that he preferred it that way. As the last hairpin got removed, her raven hair cascaded down and veiled them. Nobody could see, but God himself what was happening underneath it. His eyes fell once again onto her lips. He lifted her chin; his thumb brushed across her lips, smudging her lipstick.

‘Kiss me.’

Minerva froze.

He was drawing lazy circles on her lips with his thick finger. ‘Kiss me.’ It was as much as a broken whisper.

She closed her eyes, and in her mind the grey hair turned brown, the huskiness turned leanness, the dark blue eyes turned hazel, the three piece suit with pocket watch turned linen shirt with leather boots. She inhaled his scent. But instead of heady hay, it was the scent of some sophisticated, masculine cologne. Yet again, she just could not pretend that she was about to make love to the Dougal McGregor. Yet again, she could not pretend what that would be like. Elphinstone’s presence was much more overpowering than Dougal’s could have never been. She felt his large hands on her waist. She shifted on him and he let out an involuntary, deep, throaty moan which made the half-hearted Dougal-bubble pop in her head.

His lips were soft as always, his neatly trimmed beard was scratching her chin as always, although this time she had the chance to taste him at her own pace and it had a terrifyingly romantic feel to it which left her breathless.

And scared.

She stopped. Whether he was letting her taking control or he himself was taking advantage of her, she could not decide. Probably both.

Elphinstone lifted her head by gently grabbing onto her hair. His eyes ran along the curve of her neck, her décolleté, then back up to her iris. ‘We don’t have to do this, lass. I am not going to do anything you wouldn’t feel like d-‘.’

‘I know.’

Minerva cosseted his cheek with trembling fingers. She was hitching lower. Her fingertips timidly touched his lips. The lips that had boomed encouragement to her when she was frail; had advised her responsibility when she had turned to him; had stuttered confessions of love promising a lovely future to her; had whispered soothing, consoling words in her depths of pain; and had kissed her in such an affectionate, sensual way she never wanted to him stop.

She felt his hands on her thighs, stroking her skin all the way up to her waist then back. He was speaking to her while he was planting kisses along her neck; his delicious voice was right in her ears, leaving her increasingly weaker and weaker.

Then he flipped her over to her back and there was no more talking.

 

‘There is something else, I can see it. Apart from your brother’s death and the change in your career.’

They were laying on the magically enlarged sofa, having their afterglow pillow talk.

‘It would feel right if you stopped being so harsh to me, harsh on me, I guess,’ she said pondering. ‘I do not like it when you speak in such a condescending and commanding manner you used to do when I was your assistant.’

Elphinstone had always had an air of patronage around him, and he liked taking ownership of things – and in a certain way of people. Minerva had been fighting against the perpetuated role of the “assistant”, the “lass”, the “kitten”, the one to wield power over, but she had to admit reluctantly that his dominance actually excited and pleased her when it was appropriate.

Or more precisely, inappropriate.

He was respectful and dignified though, and so she saw nothing wrong with this obvious power imbalance in the context of the bedroom. What was in fact wrong in her mind was allowing themselves to interpret their relationship in the context of the bedroom to begin with... It was a mistake she allowed herself to make over and over again in the past one and a half decades, unfortunately increasingly more frequently and less reluctantly.

‘Commanding?’ He reached for the back of her thigh.

‘Well, not really commanding..., but implicitly imperious.’ She ran her fingers through his short, wavy hair.

‘And the deputy headmistress of Hogwarts doesn’t like it?’ He kept caressing her thigh while he was speaking.

She shook her head. ‘I have never enjoyed to be bossed around,’ she said looking straight into his dark blue iris.

‘You used to let me boss you around before.’ He dragged his warm hand higher up. The sensation made her shiver. ‘And I was not particularly gentle then.’

‘That was... a job. You were my superior. Now you are...’

‘I am?’ He tilted his head with a half-smile.

‘You are my equal.’

The answer apparently surprised him. He probably expected the word lover or something similar. He was a 63 year old man. A pure blood wizard. A wealthy senior ministry official. She was a 43 year old woman. A half blood witch. A common teacher and researcher. They were not equals in his eyes and could never be. Minerva had always believed that she was just like a candy he had appetite for and wanted to devour. He just happened to not be able to get enough of her.

‘I am technically still your boss. You work for the DMLE, and I am the deputy head of it,’ he reminded her and nipped her neck. ‘Watch your tongue, kitten.’

‘I am suspended and you have never supervised me in practice.’ She reached for his hair again absentmindedly.

The man seemed to be amused by her comeback.

‘Well, otherwise I think we would be in great trouble for this.’

‘For what?’ Minerva frowned, dropping her hand.

‘For this.’ Elphinstone leaned forward and kissed her. It was sweet, gentle, in total contrast to what she just complained about.

‘And for this,’ he murmured, and the witch felt his body shifting over hers.

 

‘Why are you blocking the McGonagall files, eh?’ Moody stormed into his office, hair ruffled.

‘Knock, Alastor, would you be so kind to knock before you enter?’

‘Why are you blocking the McGonagall files?’

Elphinstone looked up from his papers.

‘I am not blocking anything. Her activity is temporarily suspended.’

‘But for how long?’

‘I do not know.’

‘Who decided about it?’

‘Her lawyer filed a request for indeterminate suspension.’ He took a quill. ‘That is all I can tell you about it.’

‘That bitch would rather play boss in that school, is that it? Does she know what a loss she is to the Department?’

‘You have heaps of trained aurors, what is your problem.’ Elphinstone signed some papers and casted them aside.

‘But the number of animaguses is scarce,’ Moody exclaimed.

‘Now that you have the unforgivables in your arsenal, just kill all the death eaters and call it a day.’

‘Do you think you are amusing?’ the auror barked.

‘And do you think I have time for you?’ Elphinstone lifted his gaze of steel. ‘Do I look like somebody being content about your intrusion? Get an appointment from my secretary please, and we can talk. When was the last time I kicked the door on y-?’

‘So you are not willing to help?’

‘We can talk about it at a more convenient time.’ He returned to his papers. ‘I regret to state the obvious, but I am rather busy.’

‘You surely have a lunch break, Urquart.’

‘Theoretically.’

‘Be back at noon, then,’ Moody said peevishly and clomped towards the door.

‘And Alastor? Alastor.’

Elphinstone waited patiently until Moody turned around. ‘She is a cat. Not a bitch.’