Muttering the password to the large painting that served as a door to her hidden bedchamber, Minerva McGonagall gave the pair of strict-looking school teachers in the frame a smile as the painting swung open.
The room beyond was already filled with a warm glow, suggesting that her lover was already home.
Gliding through the doorway, she raised a hand and removed her hat, hanging it on the hat-stand that stood just to the left of the door.
Hopefully, she mused, as she flicked a speck of dust off the brim, she wouldn't have made too much noise. She didn't want to wake the person who shared her chambers and it was awfully late.
No sound came from the half-open door on the opposite side of the room.
To the right, a bookshelf stood from floor to ceiling, crammed to overflowing with books of all ages, shapes and sizes, a combined collection that they had put together in the twenty years that they had been together.
The left wall of the room was in a similar state, books and objects from their classes strewn all over the shelves and the large desk, which stood against the wall, seldom used, because it was simply so cluttered.
"You're late, dear," a sleepy voice spoke from the large, comfortable seat in from of the fireplace, that stood in the middle of the right wall of the room. "I thought you would have been back hours ago."
"Unfortunately, I had an errand to run," Minerva sighed, unfastening the collar of her robes, shrugging out of her heavy overrobes. "With everything that's going on, I thought I best check that our illusive Mister Potter and his friends were actually where they were meant to be."
"You do too much sometimes, Minerva," her lover said, rising from the seat and motioning for McGonagall to take her place, closing a book that was held in hands as marked by age as Minerva's own. "Sit down. I'll get you a cup of tea or... something a little stronger?"
Smiling wearily, Minerva replied, "Tea would be fine."
She sat down in the large, comfortable chair in front of the fireplace, practically sinking into the thick cushions, a sigh of pleasure escaping her as she took the weight off her feet for the first time all day.
With all the fuss being made of the Sirius Black escape and break in to the castle, she had been run off her feet with the dual duties as Head of Gryffindor, the house most under threat, and the duties of Deputy Head Mistress.
How Albus coped with the daunting post of Head master, she sincerely hoped she would never have to learn.
"I must say, that little display at the Christmas dinner was...interesting. I was almost convinced that you were a believer," Minerva chuckled at the half-amused tone in her lover's voice, as the teacups from their small cupboard were rattled together.
"You know what my views on divination are, love," she replied, leaning around the side of the chair. "Don't believe that a little Christmas feast will ever make me less open about them. I maintain that it is all a load of sanctimonious twaddle and I simply decided that I could no longer keep my opinion concealed."
"Severus found it rather amusing, the sweet little fellow."
Minerva snorted. "He would, the tight-arsed git," she muttered, turning back to the fire that was crackling cosily in the grate. Her eyes were frightfully heavy and she smothered a yawn.
"My, my, Minerva, you really are in quite the snippy mood tonight, are you not?"
Green eyes lifted to blue, which were twinkling behind glasses. A cup of steaming tea was placed in the Transfiguration Teacher's hands and she sipped it with a weary exhalation. "It has been a rather long day," she admitted.
"Then you best finish that and get to bed," her lower murmured, reaching down and deftly unpinning the tight knot of hair on top of McGonagall's head, loosening the black strands and stroking familiar fingers through them.
The thick waves fell loosely around McGonagall's pale cheeks, luxurious, soft and dark. Fingertips massaged Minerva's scalp and she closed her eyes, smiling a little, the light touch making her even more comfortable and sleepy.
"You really are very good at that, love," she sighed, sipping a little more of the hot sweet tea. A groan escaped her as the hands slid down her neck and started to ease the tension out of her shoulders. "And that..."
"You always say that, dear," the soft murmur came back to her.
Drinking her tea slowly, savouring every warming mouthful, Minerva McGonagall stretched out her cold toes towards the dancing fire, heat spreading through her, her lover's hands warm and soothing on her tightly-strung muscles.
"You're very tense," the murmur broke the silence that had only been disturbed by the crackle of the fire.
"And you're surprised?"
There was a cluck of sympathy. "Not in the slightest. With everything that has been happening, I'm rather surprised you aren't far tenser than this...finished your tea?"
"Would you like me to read your leaves for you?" the teasing tone in the voice above her didn't stop Minerva from flashing a tired, mock-irritated glare at her lover. "You know I couldn't resist it, Min."
"Obviously," McGonagall replied dryly, easing up onto her bare feet, the shaggy hearth rug warm against her cold toes, her green eyes taking in the other's night apparel. "Are you coming to bed?"
"Actually, I thought I would take a spin on Potter's new broomstick, wearing this..."
"And that has certainly giving me the most delightful image to end this wonderful evening on," Minerva chuckled, but sobered quickly. "I do hope I am mistaken in the assumption that it was from Black."
"As are we all, dear. Now," A gesture brief was made towards the bedroom, the door of which was open. "To bed with you!"
"I doubt that I have the energy to argue with you tonight, love," Minerva sighed, rubbing a hand over her face as she made her way through to the cosy bedroom that opened off their living room.
Candles stood, flickering, on the bedside cabinets on either side of the comfortable double bed, in the middle of the room.
Sleep-walking her way through her night time routine, too tired to concentrate on it, she donned her nightshirt and nightcap, her long, black hair pulled back in a loose braid at the nape of her neck.
"You really are tired, aren't you, dear?" her lover noted, as she practically fell into the bed, hauling the white sheets and burgundy blankets over her body with a grunt.
"For a diviner of the ethereal plains, you really do have a talent for stating the obvious sometimes, Sybill," Minerva muttered drowsily, as her lover climbed into the bed beside her, the mattress shifting beneath her.
Sybill Trelawny chuckled. "There's my darling little sceptic talking," she replied, extinguishing the candles on the bedside desk with a flick of her wand. Lying down, she spooned against Minerva's body, one arm sliding comfortably around her long-time lover's waist. "Do you think they suspect anything, after your little display?"
"Hardly my display alone, Sybill," Minerva sighed, as Sybill's chin came to rest on her shoulder, her lover's cheek warm against hers. "'The first to leave the table will be the one to die', indeed..."
Sybill's lips curved in a smile against Minerva's cheek. "Ah, yes, but did you see the looks on their faces? And the mad axe-man in the hallway...honestly, Albus wonders why we refuse to eat together..."
"The pupils would expect us to kill each other," Minerva laughed softly.
A light kiss was dropped on her cheek. "That would never happen, dear," Sybill sighed, pressing closer to Minerva's body. "We would have to leave it to Severus to poison us both."
"And he would, as well."
"If only he knew," Sybill said, chuckling again. "Poor little Sev just thinks we're a pair of bitter old crows with nothing better to do than insult and deride one another."
"Whose to say he would be wrong?" Minerva smiled sleepily, her cool feet getting rapidly warmed up by her lover's be-socked toes. "We really are a rather odd-couple, aren't we, love?"
Another light kiss was dusted over her cheek. "And I wouldn't dream of having it any other way," There was a pause. "See it, maybe," she added in a teasing tone.
"And I love you too, Minerva," the Divination Professor laughed.
"You're an awful seer."
"You leave cat hair everywhere."
"I love you, Sybill."
"And I you, Min."
"Sleep well, Sybill."
"Sweet dreams, Minerva."
Minerva sighed contentedly as they shared a brief kiss.
The last part of their daily routine was completed, as it had been every night for nearly twenty years, and she closed her eyes, letting sleep take her, comfortable, safe and warm in the arms of her lover.