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[personal profile] purplefluffycat
Title: One All
Author: [livejournal.com profile] purplefluffycat
Pairing: Minerva McGonagall/Rufus Scrimgeour
Rating: NC-17
Warnings/Kinks/Themes: Banter, long hair, partially-clothed sex
Word Count: About 8200

Summary/Description: In a relationship based around scoring points, what can ultimately be won?

Author's Notes: This story was written for [livejournal.com profile] kelly_chamblisskelly_chambliss in the [livejournal.com profile] daily_deviant Kinky Kristmas fest. It grew from the prompt, ‘what could entice Minerva to have sex in the staff room?'

Also, thank you so much to the kind person who nominated this story for the 'Minerva McGonagall, Best Het Smut' category in the Spring-Summer 2013 round of the [livejournal.com profile] hpfanficfanpoll awards, and to the people who must have voted for it. Much appreciated!


THE HP FANFIC FAN POLL AWARDS
SPRING-SUMMER ROUND 2013
http://hpfanficfanpoll.livejournal.com






It has been widely reported that Minerva McGonagall attended Hogwarts at the same time as Tom Marvolo Riddle. Many assumptions have been made, and many tales postulated - some dark, some heroic, some hateful.

In truth, she hardly knew the boy.

It has been far less widely reported, however, that Minerva McGonagall attended Hogwarts at the same time as Rufus Archibald Scrimgeour. And that is exactly where this story begins.


*****


October 1937


It was embarrassing to be a hatstall; of that, Minerva was sure. As the conversation in her head was raging, she could see toes tapping, tongues tutting and Professor Dumbledore’s eyebrows raised in an expression somewhere between amusement and impatience.

Then, finally, the hat roared its decision and the stool was whipped from under her. She was propelled toward the Gryffindor table, directly into the outstretched hand of a boy on the opposite side.

"Golly, that took a long time! I'm pleased to see the hat made the right decision in the end, though. Rufus Scrimgeour.” He shook her hand with vigour. “And you are...?"

"Minerva McGonagall." She tried to keep her gaze steady, inspecting the coif of copper hair and green eyes.

"Good to make your acquaintance, Miss McGonagall. Tell me, have you travelled far to be here? Where does your family come from?"

"No - from Scotland; the Highlands."

"Mmmmm! I suppose I should have been able to tell from the accent," His own tones were so warm and plummy they were the very caricature of the Home Counties. Minerva could not tell whether there was a note of derision cradled therein. "And what's your blood status?"

Then, she felt sure. Oh no, Minerva thought, it's starting already. Mother warned me about this. "Half-blood," she said, and eyeballed the boy, challenging him to mock her.

"I'm Muggleborn," he replied, not missing a beat. "I was supposed to be going to Eton, but this whole letter business rather discombobulated things. Father's an officer in the Military, and I was intended to be following in his footsteps. He's come around to the idea that there is plenty of diplomatic work to be done between the Magical and Muggle worlds, though, so I'll find a place in the Ministry, I daresay - I hear there's a lot of good work for one to do there."

"Mmm." Minerva took all of that in. The boy had a clear picture of his future - he was surely a NEWTs candidate come summer. "And which year are you in?"

"Just entering my second." He smiled broadly, apparently not noticing the incongruity. "Now, I must say it is delightful to make your acquaintance, Miss McGonagall, and I'm sure we shall have a lot to say to one another now we are housemates.” Then, turning away, “-Julian, could you pass the custard tarts? Thanks. …Well, hello there, allow me to introduce myself. I am Rufus Archibald Scrimgeour. And you are...?"


*****


December 1943

It was late, and the pile of parchment on the library desk in front of her didn't seem to be getting any smaller. Transfiguration was cracked, of course, and Charms, too. It was just Defence that was causing the problem. It always was.

Minerva sighed and tried to refocus upon the duelling manual in front of her.

"Still here, at this time of night?” The voice took her unawares, from behind a bookshelf. “All work and no play makes Minnie a very boring-"

"-Oh, it's you." Minerva rolled her eyes at the tawny mane peering at her from around Magical History. "Don't you have anything better to do with yourself, Mr. Scrimgeour?"

"Delighted to see you, too. As always." Rufus gave a mock-bow. "Now, what can I help you with?"

"'Help me' with? I don't need your help."

"-Says the girl who has been peering at the same page of 'Duelling Theory and Practice' for the past eleven minutes." He smiled smugly, knowing he had her pinned.

"Really, it's-"

"-Fine. I'll let you feel useful, too. I'm stuck on the Nine Approaches to Transfiguration of Water, and-"

"-Pfft! Well that's simple. So-"

"-We can help each other, then." He crossed his arms in triumph, that infuriating grin becoming even broader.

"Ok, fine!" Minerva allowed herself something of a harrumph. "Now, why don't you sit down?" She was determined to take control of the situation, and conjured a neat bowl of water.

"Nicely done."

"No need for sycophancy. Just watch and learn."

Minerva was gratified when Rufus did just that. She found she enjoyed being an instructor, and he was even a tolerable student.

Some while later, the moon had risen, and the library was empty of everyone else. "...So in review, the Ninth Approach is the most comprehensive of them all, combining the magic of one, three and six. - But?"

"It is limited by the Alpha Clause, making use over distance or on saline water impossible."

"Exactly. Well done; you've got it."

"Thank you, Minerva." For once, he didn't sound insincere. "Now, allow me to return the favour?"

Minerva was not one to go back on her word, and she had to admit it was genuinely useful; Rufus was the undisputed champion of the seventh year Duelling Club, and had been all year. She nodded.

"Right. The basic problem here is that duelling is a very practical magic; only a Ravenclaw would try to learn it from a book and they... tend not to be very good at duelling."

"Is that so?" She raised a haughty eyebrow. "Filius Flitwick?"

"Oh, ok. He's an exception. But really, stand up, and get out your wand." Minerva acquiesced, and soon found Rufus' hand encircling her own. "The real trick to it is that you use a slightly different grip to ordinary casting. It channels the energy differently; everyone's wand is different, of course - and you have to work out how to speak to yours - but basically, you need to teach it when you're doing something defensive or aggressive, rather than just Transfiguration."

"What do you mean 'just' Transfiguration?" The indignant tone in her voice tried to belie the warm tingle spreading out from where his hand grasped hers.

"Sorry, poor choice of words. But you see what I mean. The next thing is stance: your natural magic can’t be used for duelling if you stand as if you're about to have a nice cup of tea." Without warning, he intercalated one of his legs between hers from behind, and wrapped his arm around her waist to steady her. "Now, lean into the wand-arm; get ready to push your magic along it; don't just let it flow out."

Minerva did as instructed, and could actually feel the buzz growing inside her.

"Great, now cast something at that far wall."

"I can't! We're in the library."

"Shhh. Don't worry, I'll block it. Just cast something."

"Don't be-"

"-Great! You're angry with me - now just do it!"

"I..." Minerva was only half-way to thinking of a spell, but it was too late; a stream of red sparks escaped her wand and whizzed at the portrait opposite with enormous force. It was, by far, the most powerful jinx that she had ever let loose.

As he had promised, Rufus neutralised the charm just before the image of Silas the Strange was incinerated to smithereens. "That's fantastic! Now, you've just got to learn to control it." Consciously or no, he tightened his grip, fingers smoothing downward. Minerva felt exhilarated - although whether that was more to do with her breakthrough in spell-casting or Rufus' palm spreading warmth into her belly as it insouciantly cradled her hip, it was difficult to tell.

She tried several times again, each time an improvement. -And if they might have kissed before going back to their respective dormitories, only the moonbeams and house-elves were to know.


*****


September 1944

"Thank you for coming today, Miss McGonagall. I'm pleased to tell you that we have selected you for the position." Mr. Urquart shook her hand across the desk. "Now, if you would be so kind as to trot along to the registry to fill in your paperwork. Be back here tomorrow at nine, and we can begin work."

In triumph, Minerva catapulted herself out of the office - once more into the broad gesticulation of a tawny-haired young man in fine clothes, who was walking along the corridor in no particular rush.

"My, my, if it isn't little Minerva McGonagall!"

Minerva started, then narrowed her eyes to place the man. A year on, he looked good; fine teeth and glistening confidence just shining down the hall. How did people get so confident? "That's 'Secretary McGonagall', if you please,” she rejoined, “They've just offered me the job." She flicked her head toward the selection office, not minding that it made her hair sway; she was walking on air.

"Well, congratulations. Old man Slughorn set you up for it, I presume? He's a good chap, isn't he?"

"No, actually. I applied for it myself and was appointed on my own merits." She pursed her lips and turned on her way.

"Alright, alright, no need to get all Northern and chippy with me." Rufus cantered along to keep pace with her. "Besides, I love your optimism! I couldn't do that. Say - where are you living?"

"I, errr..." That gave Minerva pause. She thought back to her little room at the vicarage, and her Mother's wand in a box under the bed. There was nowhere else to go, of course, and her new salary was hardly large.

"-Great! Come and live with us."

"I... beg your pardon?"

"I said, 'come and live with us'. Some of the lads and gels and I have a great house in Piccadilly - and there's space."

She faced him down, her expression as stern as she could make it for someone currently so pleased. "Look, Rufus. I don't need your charity."

"Charity? Who mentioned charity? We've a spare room, and you clearly need a place to live. Makes sense, doesn't it?"

Minerva could hardly argue with that, so she kept quiet.

Taking that as a decision, Rufus ploughed on. "Super! Let's go out for a drink to celebrate."

"But I'm-"

"-Nonsense. You can sort all of that out tomorrow. I'll even let you pay for yourself, if you must. We usually go to the Fox and Phoenix on Bond Street." And with that, he locked his arm around her elbow, and led her to a drinking hole full of bright young pinstriped men and nicely-coiffed women. The next day, she was lucky that Mr. Urquart was so understanding.

Minerva's life in London had begun.


*****


December 1944


She hadn’t intended to go to the Ministry Ball with Rufus, exactly - but as they were housemates, it seemed churlish to make a point of arriving separately. Her robes were midnight blue, as were his; she snorted politely when people remarked that they made a lovely couple, and instead sought out the company of her fellow secretaries and her pleasant boss, sticking safely to the edge of the room, away from the dancing.

Perhaps inevitably, that resolution was not to last to the end of the evening. Minerva didn't drink much by habit, but was certainly not tea-total; it had been a good year for the Ministry, and the catering certainly stretched further than her usual weak gin and gillywater. The past few months had been busy, though by the fourth glass of champagne that all seemed a distant memory, and Minerva was feeling rather relaxed. Perhaps even like taking to the floor...

"Come here you gorgeous girl, and let me dance with you." Rufus' voice appeared in her ear, his hot breath tickling her neck. He smelt of cologne and expensive firewhisky and that intangible, infectious confidence. Minerva found herself not altogether unwilling to be scooped into his arms and led swishing around the dance floor.

One dance led to another, and that led to a fifth. Rufus' hands slipped further and further down her back, and their noses became closer and closer together as the steps slowed to a gentle whirl; the pretext of 'going outside for a breath of fresh air' was barely needed.

“Shh, now…” He kissed her gently, then firmly, then with hands roaming below her bodice and under her skirts. By the time two of his fingers were inside her and Minerva was whimpering against the shrubbery, she decided that was the appropriate moment to apparate them both back to Piccadilly for the rest of a sleepless night.


*****


August 1946

They never shared a room, and they didn't behave as a couple in public. Instead, they drank together, laughed together, argued like firebrands and had scorching sex several times a night. Remembering the farmer's-wife existence from which she had just escaped, Minerva told herself that such an emancipated arrangement was exactly what she wanted.

Sexually, they were spectacular together - her fine, dark hair reaching all the way to her buttocks, curtaining them both when she rode him, and flying in the air when her whipped her upside down and took her from behind. Rufus was lithe, muscular and very experimental, taking as much pleasure in giving her orgasms as in being greedy for them himself. Her previous experience having been modest, Minerva now felt not only thoroughly indoctrinated into the pleasures of the flesh, but something of a connoisseur.

Outside of the bedroom, he was fun and infectious. Everyone liked Rufus – except possibly his boss in the International Wizarding Relations department, who could not quite understand how he managed to stay afloat using so very much charm and so very little actual work - he was the hub of the party. Minerva felt just a little smug to be the one sharing his bed.

-Not that she would admit that to him in a month of Sundays, of course. And definitely not that after nearly two years, she might just be becoming a little attached.

Despite the bravado, he was by far one of the cleverest men she had met. It was a relief to find her match; of the boys she had dated in the past, Minerva had found herself oscillating between being bored by their conversation and taking pains to rein-in her acerbic comments lest she hurt their feelings. It wasn't fair to kick a niffler, after all.

But with Rufus, she could just be herself - by turns studious, eccentric and shrewish - and he could cope with all of it with a wink and a well-turned outrageous rebuttal. Perhaps one day... she found herself wondering. He clearly found her adequately attractive. They clearly enjoyed each others' company. Neither of them were ready to settle down as yet, but...

...And then she shook her head, and tried to get rid of such ridiculously domesticated thoughts. Only schoolgirls would find their notebooks scrawled with 'Mrs. Rufus Scrimgeour', after all.

*


It was a Sunday afternoon; the light played lazily across Rufus' desk - highlighting its untouched documents - and alighted on a tangle of limbs and pillows, long dark hair cast across a finely-muscled torso, and a possessive arm slung around slim hips.

They had spent most of the day, thus. Minerva was just thinking about getting up and asking Rufus if he'd like some dinner; they had eaten together more and more of late, and he seemed to particularly like her Highland stew. Wouldn't it be lovely, if- - again, she stopped herself mid-thought.

She was just about to stir them both, when Rufus tapped her shoulder. "Oh, that's what I was going to tell you, earlier."

"Another 'highly amusing' anecdote from your office, I suppose?"

"No, not even that. Guess what, Min! I have exciting news."

"Mmmm?" She was sure that this was bound to be about firewhisky or the inappropriate behaviour of one of his colleagues to a secretary.

"I'm getting married! To Artemesia Crouch." Her mouth went dry. "-You know, that girl whose grandfather was Minister of Magic, and whose father is set to be Deputy Minister..."

Minerva found that the ability to speak had deserted her.

"...Well, it all sounds like an excellent prospect," Rufus continued, "Don't you think? -But of course, we shouldn't let a little thing like that get in the way of our... spending such pleasant time together, now should we?"

Minerva became very still. Then, without a moment of fuss, she rose from the bed, accioed her clothes and departed to her own room.


*****



September 1946

She was all packed, her belongings shrunk in a neat row in the hall. The cab was called, and her travelling cloak was on. She had bid good-bye to their other housemates, and now there was only one thing left to do.

As much as she had fantasised about flouncing out without a backward glance over the past week, her Presbyterian good manners wouldn't quite allow it. Thus, Minerva found herself stiffly knocking on the door of the bedroom in which she had spent so many fevered nights.

There was no response at first. She knocked again, to receive a scratchy, "Come... come in."

Doing so, Minerva was caught off-guard. Rather than bustling around, posturing in the mirror, or writing frivolous letters to friends on fine notepaper, Rufus was sitting stock-still on the divan, face as white as the bed linen and gaze set a thousand miles away.

"What's the matter?" Minerva had never been one to mince her words.

Rufus regarded her with a sudden flick of the head, as if surprised that there was suddenly a person standing there. It seemed as if he was deciding whether or not to bother answering, but Minerva could tell that this time the reticence was born of something other than conceit. He glanced down, then back up at her. "My father... he died in action. It was yesterday, I'm told."

"Oh, gosh. I'm sorry."

They regarded each other awkwardly, Minerva still hovering in the doorframe.

Rufus shrugged, but the insouciance was not at all convincing. "And..." he glanced down at a piece of paper, limp between his fingers. He was not exactly offering it to Minerva, but made no argument when she crossed the room, took it and read.




Saigon, 1st November 1946


Rufus,

Make me proud. No more lily-livered desk-work.


Field Marshal Archibald Scrimgeour



"I see." A moment passed in silence. "Rufus, I know you... loved... your father." The verb seemed wrong. They both knew it, but in the pause neither made a correction out loud. "But it is equally acceptable for you to find your own path. You can be your own person - your own wizard."

He blinked, hard, then retrieved the note from her. "I've signed up to join the Auror office. Professor Slughorn arranged it all. It may not be fighting wars, but there is a lot of Darkness to battle against, and..."

"You're sure?" Of course he wasn't.

Rufus nodded. "One must do one's part."

"Well..." It was so tempting to say something uncharitable about his 'part' to date - but again, the decent girl within Minerva won out. "Then I'm sure you shall be a success in whatever you set your mind to. Farewell, Rufus."

"Fare... -What?"

Minerva pushed open the door wider, to show him her neat queue in the hall. "I have been appointed to teach Transfiguration at Hogwarts. I'm moving there today."

"Oh... I... Well, damn it all but... Minerva, you know how I feel about you, and-"

She smiled, the calm countenance not betraying that fact that she was boiling inside. "Yes, I know exactly. Goodbye, Rufus."

She leant over to give him a cursory hug, but he stood and grabbed on, burying his face in her shoulder. Minerva permitted it for a few moments; she even found herself gentling his hair and melting into the embrace. Then she righted herself, pulling away smoothly - and just because she couldn't stand being entirely nice, whispered in his ear, "Enjoy your wedding," before turning for the door and the waiting taxi.


*****


1962

It was amazing how easily someone could sink from the status of lover to that of occasional Christmas card recipient. Minerva was very careful not to bother every year, as well.

She had studiously ignored the wedding invitation (from Artemesia's father, to everyone who had been in their year group; of course, he had no idea that Minerva knew the groom) until the last possible moment one could send an owl in declination without appearing unconscionably rude.

The girl herself was dull, meek and lumpen - but her family was very well-connected. That had been the gist of The Prophet's society column, at least - gushing about the great-and-good-studded guest list, and "a gown so expensive it could flatter even the most unpromising of figures".

In the pictures, Rufus had stood stiffly by his wife, dodging away when she had tried to lean-in for a kiss. He had looked for all the world like a young man who had just been told his life was about to end; Minerva had tried hard not to think, serves him right.

That was years ago, but this day, Rufus' picture stared out of Minerva's copy of the newspaper for a very different reason: 'Stealth Attack by Renegade Band of Dark Wizards; Promising Young Auror Nearly Killed."

He looked... weak, sad and... lonely, lying there among all the hospital whites. Minerva's mind flashed back to the day his face matched the linen in Piccadilly. Was I too harsh, back then? Could we have made something work, if I hadn't turned out to be a prudish traditionalist after all?

Minerva ruminated all those thoughts the next day as she taught her classes and planned lessons. Rufus' drawn face peeked out at her from The Prophet: 'Irreparable damage... long stay at St. Mungo's... full recovery unlikely," and she hadn't the heart to close the paper or throw it away.

By five o'clock on the third day, she was standing in her fireplace with travelling cloak on, and Floo powder in hand. "St. Mungo's Spell Damage Wing," she said, and was then quickly stepping out onto scrubbed tiles, amid the smell of medicinal potions.

The Wizarding hospital was not known for its visitor services or useful signage, and - perhaps surprisingly - there was no-one around. Minerva took it upon herself, then, to pace the corridors, peering as discreetly as she could through the internal windows into the various wards. Some patients were a sorry sight, indeed; the venomous tentacula victims particularly made her shudder.

Finally, though, she came across a room occupied by only one patient, with 'Curse Damage' printed above the door. It was quite bright inside; shafts of sunlight struck across the bedclothes like metal bars.

Minerva peeked through the window. Rufus was sitting up in bed, reading Ministry documents. A quill was held in the hand that was not bandaged, and the parchment before him was full of earnest marginalia. His eyes focussed in the middle distance for a moment, and he frowned.

He was still almost painfully handsome - those familiar high cheekbones, no less striking now that they were scarred, and the soft, velvety sweep of his hair like fire against snow, peeking out from behind a particularly serious-looking piece of binding. There was a new sadness and tiredness behind his eyes, though, so very different from before; he clutched the dry parchment as if was the only real friend he had. Minerva's heart broke for the reckless boy she had once known - but only a little.

She took a deep breath, and was just about to go in - but just then a fat girl bustled past her and through the doorway without a sideways glance.

"Oh, Merlin! You're up!" she shrieked. "Oh, good." The girl plopped down onto the bed, and patted Rufus' arm carelessly. He winced. "Now, I wanted to ask you to forward fifteen-hundred galleons to my account at Madam Malkin's. That nice Miss Umbridge next door has got all the new styles already, and it would be soooo embarrassing for me to be wearing last season's robes - don't you think? And while you're at it, Rufus, you'd better not be looking at those nurses that come busy-bodying around here. I'll tell you..."

Minerva did not wait to hear what Rufus was going to be told. He had made his bed, as it were, and he could bloody well lie in it.


*****



June 1982


Artemesia died in the spring, but it took until the summer for Chief Auror Scrimgeour to contact Deputy Headmistress McGonagall.

It started as a ruse regarding work, albeit a good one; he had been directed by Minister Bagnold to review Defence and Dark Magic in education following the war, so wrote some clever letters to Hogwarts. Albus was so busy that summer that he was happy to accede to the suggestion that Minerva be charged with the task - so within a few days of the idea being thought up, an owl had arrived at Gryffindor tower asking for an initial meeting.

On receiving the letter, Minerva's first reaction was to burn it. This was a year off for the Christmas card, after all.

Thus, she didn't reply at first, just allowing the damnable letter to stare at her from the top of her desk, internal dialogue blaring every time she glanced at it:

It's thoroughly unreasonable for him to get in touch after all of these years!

-The owl was about work. A good project, it is, too. He might not even have remembered who I am when he wrote it. And even if he does, I'm sure we could get on with the task at hand in a professional manner; I'm clearly no lithe young woman any more.

-But what if he
doesn't think of me as a lithe young woman any more? Have I really become that unattractive? And he's still so damnably debonair. It's hardly possible to read an article about the post-war world without the Head of the Auror Office staring with those captivating green eyes out of the page...

Oh for heaven's sake, Minerva, you
are a grown witch. And wouldn't it be very cowardly to let him scare you like this?

-Scared? I'm not scared. I just think it's utterly unreasonable that-

-Aha. You're scared. Go and be a Gryffindor about it.



*


Rage as the indecision might, the Gryffindor trump-card won out in the end. In truth, it usually did.

It was therefore with a spring in her stride and a stiffness to the upper lip that Minerva went downstairs to meet Chief Auror Scrimgeour on the appointed day. Being summer, the castle was blissfully student-free; he could arrive at the front doors in relative peace, and she could greet him in relative private.

Mustering her most school-teacherly frown, Minerva spelled open the door to a man of serious mien, soberly dressed in robes exquisite in the detail. He extended a hand in greeting. "Professor McGonagall. A delight to be here, and to have the opportunity to collaborate with you."

"You're welcome," she mustered. "Let me show you to your rooms."

They began work in earnest that afternoon. Seated around a walnut table quickly disappearing under acres of parchment notes, Minerva eyed Rufus over her spectacles. "I firmly disagree, Auror Scrimgeour. Any reforms in our educational system must be developed by the educational providers themselves. It is thoroughly unreasonable that a dictat from on high should be-"

"-But what if that dictat merely serves to enhance the training of our next generation? Teachers closeted away here cannot possibly begin to imagine the challenges faced by-"

"'Closeted away'? I cannot begin to imagine what kind of wrong-headed impression you have gained of-"

"-My apologies. A poor choice of words." He held up a hand in a conciliatory gesture, and took a sip of water. "I simply meant that practical experience against Dark Wizards gives a different perspective on the priorities." Rufus crossed his legs. It was probably unconscious, but the action made him wince; a souvenir of old wounds.

Minerva nodded, also in appeasement, and trying not to stare. "I quite understand. So, what would you suggest?" She glanced down at her parchment - sketch no. 34 of the new curriculum was already looking past its prime.

"Well..." For once, he hesitated. Then, surprisingly earnest: "I have every respect for knowledge of the Magical Theory behind offence and defence, but... when it's just you and them - with your wands, in a field - having that instinct drummed into you to know the counter-curse without having to think about it - well, that makes the difference between dead or alive, healthy or crippled."

Minerva took a deep breath. "Yes. I can see that." She reached for her glass, collecting her thoughts. "But may we not hope? -That next year's eleven year-olds will not know the same horrors that we have known? Must we prepare for nothing but war?"

Rufus put his head on one side and regarded her. Softly, without a hint of sarcasm he said, "I've missed your optimism."

The room suddenly felt very close; very silent. Their eyes found one anothers' and would not quite let go.

-Not until Minerva found her quill and her better senses, and said, "Right. On to the next draft, then," at least.

*


Working with Rufus was surprisingly companionable, teething problems aside. They continued to argue about every little point - why, of course they did - but it seemed to be on a basis of understanding and striving toward a common good. The years had changed him, and it was not altogether for the worse. There was a seriousness, now - a sense that his scattergun intelligence had finally found a purpose - though whether the outwardly dour countenance and damaged limbs were a reasonable price, Minerva could not be sure. Something sad resided in the eyes of Auror Scrimgeour; Minerva was determined that it was not her concern to examine it.

It was not until ten days from the project start that a social suggestion was voiced. Their work was wrapping up for the day, and the gentle golden light of early evening caressed the scrolls before them, making everything appear more gentle and magnanimous than it usually might.

Making a final note after a rare point of accord, Rufus raised his bushy eyebrows and assumed a matter-of-fact tone. "Would you have dinner with me?"

Minerva didn't miss a beat. "I shouldn't think so."

"Then don't think - just have dinner with me." He smiled in that way that fixed her to the chair. "I'll ask the elves to make Highland stew... though I'm sure it shan't be as good as yours."

Annoyingly, Minerva found herself in want of a witty reply as the years whooshed backward and all of a sudden they were laughing in the kitchen in Piccadilly.

"-Excellent," he concluded in the pause. "I'll come to your quarters at eight, then." Rufus stood up and turned tail, making off down the corridor before she could protest. His gait was graceful, despite the halting limp. Minerva watched his silhouette from the office doorway for longer than she would have liked to admit, and resigned herself to having dinner with her... colleague. It would look foolish to protest too strongly against such a thing, after all.

*


When eight o' clock arrived, Minerva found herself once again opening a door to the man she had successfully shut out for the best part of fifty years. He had changed; the robes did not reprise the extravagance of his youth, but they were clearly intended for leisure, not work: emerald green with satin facings. Minerva rolled her eyes at herself when she caught herself thinking he looked jolly good. Of course he bloody well did. But that was hardly the point.

By eleven o' clock, the remnants of the House Elves better efforts lie strewn on the table, and two bottles of elf-made wine were ready for the glass-furnace. Rufus had slid closer to Minerva around the table, his hand nearly brushing hers as the wild gesticulations of their earlier skirmishes slowed to gentle movements upon the tablecloth. She felt tendrils of hair slipping out of her bun, and her cheeks were flushed - yet somehow Minerva felt too relaxed to care.

The conversation died to a gentle hum; somehow they seemed to be smiling more and saying less. Then, very deliberately, Rufus took one of Minerva's hands and brought it to his lips - first kissing the back like a gentleman, then sucking each of her fingers like a whore.

Transfixed, Minerva neither spoke a word nor brooked an argument when Rufus leaned over to kiss her on the lips. He kissed like a man who had been starved, and she responded hungrily, her body responding to his touch without input from her brain. It was glorious, and in that split-second, Minerva decided she wanted more; the far side of a bottle of wine, she was damned sick of his tantalising. Minerva pulled Rufus upright and toward her bedchamber.

If she had considered the scene in advance, Minerva might have wondered if she were to feel self-conscious: her breasts were not as high and her stomach not as smooth as they once were. Would his injuries have given them both pause?

As it was, however, hesitation or thought had no quarter. They fell upon the bed in a tangle of pure sensation, robes haphazardly discarded and teeth upon collarbones and hardened nipples. Minerva arched from the bed, then fell back in a quivering frenzy as she rediscovered the fact that there was absolutely nothing in this world so exquisitely fabulous as his tongue inside her, lapping and questing and leaving no mercy as she mewled and writhed until she came in shuddering gasps.

*


That first evening set the tone for the rest of their summer. Rufus and Minerva certainly did not see each other every evening - she had plenty of other affairs to attend to, thank you very much - but when they did, the argument and the sex were each hotter than the breath of a Hungarian Horntail.

For nearly two months they did not speak a word about it, though - just work, and dinner, and making each other writhe until they screamed. It was glorious; the summer was filled with unreal pleasure and offbeat distraction, like the heat-mirages that rose above the Great Lake.

But when the leaves began to yellow and September owls began to weigh upon Minerva's desk, they both must have sensed that the affair could not breeze on forever.

It was not a serious talk; that would not be their style. The two of them were lying in a mess of seed and sheets, after-midnight-gasping and buzzing with orgasm.

"Oh Merlin, Minerva, you're fabulous," Rufus breathed. "Have I ever properly told you how fabulous you are? Gods, we should have done this years ago. What a waste of time!"

"You might not be so bad, yourself," she allowed.

"I say! Bugger this old school, will you? Come and live with me. Let's do it properly. Will you make an honest man of me, after all these years?"

All of a sudden, Minerva's heart lurched. The very decision she had been putting-off for the past two months now shone in her mind, perfectly crystal clear. She didn't feel intoxicated any more - with elf-made wine, or with anything else; it was time for the world to be real.

"Thank you, Rufus," Minerva replied, "That's a very kind thought. But, ah!" She allowed herself a little mock pause, "I have good news!"

"Oh?" He sounded cautiously optimistic.

"I'm getting married - to Elphinstone Urquart!"

Rufus went very quiet for a moment. Then, he barked a laugh - once, twice - pained, like an old dog. "Wow." Another cough. "I mean really - wow. So is that 'one all'?"


*****



31st July 1997

It was late; Minerva was struggling to keep her lids open as she sat in the staffroom, watching the grate. She would have returned to her quarters were it not for the fact that here was the only fireplace they had secured for calls. The best of her and Filius' spellwork had been lavished upon it, and they still were not one hundred percent confident that messages could not be intercepted. Yet, in these disturbed times, uncertainty was the best they had.

News from the Order was long overdue; she was to wait until four in the morning, then Hagrid would take a turn. Constantly ill at ease, one never knew what was to be next: news of another death, or of a minor victory. Minerva felt sick in a way that no amount of tea and shortbread could help.

Suddenly, green flames sprang to life, and the security chime sounded. Minerva lit her wand and called, "Who goes?"

A voice came from the flame, but no face - at least that aspect of the spell was working, then - it was soft but gruff, and brooked no argument. "The Minister for Magic. I need access immediately."

Oh, Merlin. Minerva ran the identity charms just as they had rehearsed, and they proved it was no impostor. One Rufus Scrimgeour was requesting access from the Minister's official residence. He was alone, in sound mind and not operating under any known curses. "What..." She cleared her throat. "What do you want?"

"-I said, 'immediately'."

Minerva paused for just long enough to realise she had no legal option but to grant the connection.

The last time that man had been in the castle, he had said some quite unconscionable things to Albus; it seemed disloyal to the Headmaster's memory to allow him in - but what else could she do? Besides, Albus would not have fussed about such things. He probably would have just smiled and offered the Minister a lemon drop. Resignedly, Minerva cast the spell.

Even then, though, she was expecting just a Floo call. When a tall, frock-coated wizard exploded through the fireplace, Minerva jumped backward - mirroring his posture as he leant heavily on his stick to regain balance. He looked tired - clearly more grey and frail than he had been just a month before, eventhough Minerva had done her best not to talk to him at the funeral.

Rufus began to speak before he had rubbed the soot from his eyes. "Listen here, I urgently require- Oh! It's you."

"How strange of me to be found in my own school."

He cleared his throat and righted both his posture and his spectacles. "Forgive me," Rufus said, then gave a slight bow. "Headmistress."

The name was a month old now, but it still felt raw whenever Minerva heard it. She struggled to keep the satire from her voice; it was difficult to believe this boy really was their political leader. "Minister." Raising her eyebrows at him, Minerva wanted an explanation for such intrusion into her domain. When nothing was forthcoming, she made it overt: "And to what may I owe the pleasure?"

She was expecting another smooth comeback, but for the first time Minerva could remember, Rufus Scrimgeour shuffled on his feet. "I confess, I had not expected to find you here directly." He swallowed a few times, then made a show of polishing his spectacles once more. It was as if that simple question had deflated years of bombast, all at once. Finally, he spoke again, fixing her gaze with his. "I... need to tell someone - you - I need to tell you my suspicions."

"Don't you have a whole team of lackeys for that?" This was not making a great deal of sense.

A muscle twitched in the corner of his eye. Minerva struggled to see the confidence of the man of yore; in a pang, she was shocked by how much she missed it. The world was certainly not right when Rufus Scrimgeour seemed adrift. "Not... any more," he said, "I fear that, at least."

Rufus took a deep breath, now regaining composure. "I think it is fair to say that Albus Dumbledore and I did not see eye to eye on how this war should be handled. We did not part on the best of terms." The understatement rang between them; ghosts of angry letters and failed arrests tripped in the air. "However, I have never doubted that we were fighting against the same enemy - however dissimilar our methods were. I have never doubted that this peculiar fortress of yours - masquerading as an educational institution - is fundamentally on the side of truth. I therefore wish to give you all the information I have, lest it die with me."

Minerva nodded, grimly. "I will do all that I can."

He spoke of bequests and suspicions; children and strange objects; Ministry impostors and unforgivables. Minerva took accurate note of everything with the part of her brain that was functioning; the other part couldn't help but drift into the past - to imagine this ravaged, serious wizard as the boy who danced with her and skipped on the very moonbeams. She felt old, and her tartan robes did not quite keep out the cold this night. What had become of them both?

"Thank you, Minister," she said when he was finished, "I shall, of course, do my best to guard and use the information you have imparted."

Rufus nodded. "I know you respected him highly." He shuffled once more, gazing down at the rug. "And my respect for you is great, also."

His eyes flicked back upward; he looked almost shy. Minerva was damned sure she was not going to crumble, whatever might be coming next, and stared him out.

"It's coming, you know. The end." His voice was quiet and creaky; it spoke of a man who never indulged himself enough to speak his fears. Just allowing those words past his lips had painted relief on his features.

Minerva gave a tight smile. "Must you be so gloomy?" She cast around the dark staffroom, imagining the teachers asleep in their rooms, and the elves nestled in their quarters downstairs. Even without children in the castle, they had a lot to fight for.

He returned her smile. "There's that optimism again. I've always liked that." A measured breath. "And... as we're here, and I'm not sure whether I'll get another chance - I just wanted to say... I've always liked you, Minerva. Probably far more than you've ever realised."

She smiled, then boggled, utterly unsure whether to be pleased or outraged that the man could presume he could just walk in here and begin saying such... after all those... when she was supposed to be doing a professional task and.... now she felt so utterly discombobulated it was difficult to be mature and sensible when she hadn't slept properly in weeks and...

"-Then you have a bloody funny way of showing it, Mr. Artemesia Crouch!" It was the first time she had ever referred to it out loud.

Her outburst worked wonders on Rufus - within a second the fire was back and raging. "Oh, really. You know I did that for-"

"-Yes, I know precisely why you did it. Because ascent of the slippery pole has always been more important to you than people."

"-Oh! Coming from the spinster who ball-breaks anyone with the audacity to say they know how to-"

"-Misogynist relic from a Dickensian novel who-"

"-Opinionated harpy with a-"

"-Merlin-blessed son of-"

"Witch from-"

"Philandering bastard!" CRACK. She slapped him across the cheek. Hard.

There was shocked silence, save from their agitated breathing. The fire spluttered and an owl hooted in the night.

Then, very slowly, Rufus' face broke into the most tremendous grin. "God, Minerva, do you have any idea how gorgeous you still are? You spectacular beast, you. Have you any idea how much I've missed you? All those years when I settled for something second-best and I could have had you in my arms. I need you. You're the only one who makes me feel alive. And I gave that up! I've been such a bloody fool."

"You're very presumptuous, Rufus, to think that-"

"-Oh, just shut up and kiss me." He caught her shoulders and pulled her close; a swift jerky motion. Minerva could have pulled away - could even have slapped him again - but all of a sudden his cigar-breath was on her cheek and his wiry warmth was wrapped around her chilled frame. It felt wonderful, and even though it was altogether against her better judgement, she felt her mouth go slack as it met his; lips melting, tongues continuing to duel in the slick darkness.

They parted for a second, but then kissed in earnest again, and again, and again. Somehow, they had collapsed against the back of a sofa. Minerva could feel his hardness pressing into her hip, and her hands moved there, very much wanting to touch and hold him.

Rufus' eyes fluttered shut as she did so, lips parted and throat exposed to her mouth. "Ahhh..." he gasped, "Shall we... to your quarters?"

Minerva was just about to agree, but a small voice in her mind shouted 'no'. She was waiting for a message; it could be important. "I can't leave this watch."

"But..." He sounded as desperate as she felt.

Minerva cursed her luck. But, nothing can be seen through the charmed Floo without activation, so.... "Here," she said, his lips painting streaks on her neck. "We'll stay here."

Rufus stood up, alarmed. "But-"

"-Shut up and make love to me." She pushed him in the chest, hard enough that his knees buckled and he fell backwards into her favourite chair.

Minerva followed him there directly, legs astride Rufus' lap. She pulled at his robes, and he pulled at the fixings in her hair; before long he was half-naked, and her locks cascaded down her back, free from their customary bun.

They could have taken more time just then - Rufus would have liked to admire the silver-black sheet down her back, and Minerva would have liked to run her fingers across the muscles of his torso, less bulky now, but still defined, despite the years. As it was, though, they both found that they even more liked the idea of being at one. Rufus undid the fastenings of his trousers and pushed underwear aside, and Minerva ruched up her skirts in a frenzy, wandlessly banishing her knickers - it seemed it would take far too long to stand up again.

With no want of preparation, she found his cock and lowered herself upon it, hissing at the sweet intrusion.

Rufus jerked upward, mouth agape in pleasure. "Gods," he breathed, "You're so tight..."

He felt fantastic, but Minerva was hungry for more. Grasping the wings of her lovely old chair, she moved upward upon her knees once more, angling forward on the downward stroke such that the tip of his cock brushed just there. She cried out a little, then he grasped her hips and repeated the thrust, slick and forceful, starting a fevered rhythm into which they both locked.

As they pounded, Minerva felt herself clenching tighter, waves of pleasure travelling through her belly, mind becoming glazed and giddy... Rufus' hands bunched into the fabric of her robes and groped at her breasts, his face flushed and lips seeking hers between gasps for air. Nothing could compare to this. Nothing.

He came with a shout, hot inside her. Seconds later, Minerva broke as well, keening as the moment washed over her; late and dark and forbidden, it was surely the most intense orgasm she had ever experienced.

They stayed like that for long moments, regaining breath, the world swimming back into focus. Slowly, Minerva crawled off of Rufus's lap, and cast a cursory few spells to clean them up and right their clothes. There was quiet, but the comfortable kind.

Gently, they faced one another and smiled. It seemed a pity to break the hush, but there were clearly things that had to be said. "After this," Rufus started.

"After this?" Minerva wondered where he was headed, given his earlier fatalistic remarks.

"Yes!" He was animated again, gathering pace. "After all this whole bloody war is over, and we're free again to do as we please. Shall we try again, Minerva? I've been such a fool."

"But you said-"

"Dash what I said! I have something to bother living for, now, and I damned well intend to do so."

Minerva could not help but return his grin.

The sensible side of her brain, though, insisted that she needed to defer her response; she needed some time to think it through properly.

- And then realised she didn't need to think at all. "Yes." The simple word was enough.

Rufus nodded, and held her close. He looked so very content like that: exactly as she felt. "And no more games?"

Minerva sighed and relaxed into his embrace. At long last, this felt right. Some of her students were mature by the time they left school; some took into their mid-twenties to behave like adults. It seemed that theirs was a particularly aggravated case, but perhaps by the age of seventy-two they might have just got the hang of it.

She nodded, burying her face in his shoulder. "No more games."

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