WOO! As promised. :) I AM BACK! LOVE YOU GUYS, AS EVER!
1 September 1982
Minerva opened her eyes and blinked slowly; it was early, barely sunrise, and the dim light filtering through the bedroom window was a deep bluish-gray. She smiled at the dark outline of Elphinstone, already dressed in his work robes, and sat up as he set a breakfast tray beside her on their bed.
"To what do I owe the honor?" she asked sleepily, putting on a light and yawning.
"Well, for starters, we've been married two weeks and you haven't kicked me out yet," he grinned, waving his wand so that a cup of tea prepared itself for Minerva. He sat down next to her, careful not to disturb the tray.
"Fair point," she acceded with a smile. "Don't go getting a big head, though, it's mostly because you cook." She picked up a napkin and speared a piece of potato on a fork.
Elphinstone laughed and kissed her forehead. "Here I thought my cooking days were over."
"One of these days we really ought to sit down and discuss who exactly you thought you were marrying," she mumbled through a full mouth, pointing a finger at him. She sipped her tea and swallowed. "Really, though. Now I feel like I should've gotten you something for the end of our honeymoon."
"It has been a nice couple of weeks," he agreed, picking up a tomato on the end of his fork and popping it in his mouth. "But this is mostly because I have to work late tonight."
"A-ha, the truth comes out," Minerva smiled. Then she shrugged. "That's all right, I do too. Sorting ceremony, remember? Tommy's being Sorted tonight, I can't believe it—I'm positive I've got a third Ravenclaw on my hands."
Elphinstone smiled gently and nodded. "I meant a bit later than that. I may stay in London tonight."
Minerva raised her eyebrows. "Why?" she asked. "Finn." He hesitated, and she crossed her arms. "Elphinstone. Tell me."
"The news is going to break today," he said quietly. "But next week, they're trying the four Death Eaters who—who tortured the Longbottoms, and…the fourth name is going be released. We're expecting a frenzy."
Minerva felt a sinking sensation in her stomach, and she knew that Elphinstone, too, was thinking of seeing Augusta and Herbert at the wedding. "Oh, my. But—why? Does this mean you can tell me why it's been a secret for so long?"
He looked at her seriously for a moment. "There've been some behind-the-scenes moves, trying to determine the fourth's involvement," he sighed heavily. "He's connected to a Ministry worker, and—well, I personally feel there's been a bit too much treatment of him with kid gloves, but I'm not on the Wizengamot."
"You're not making any sense," Minerva said. "What do you mean he's connected to a Ministry worker? You mean someone was trying to get him off the charge because he's got family in the government?" she demanded, feeling her cheeks grow hot.
"No, no—that's not what I said—well—all right, people have been trying to figure out how to put a better spin on this—"
"Well, it's not Millicent Bagnold, she doesn't have children, so I'm not sure who you could be talking about with enough clout to merit a pardon for what this—monster—did to Frank and Alice Longbottom," Minerva snapped.
"Barty Crouch," Elphinstone cut across her. "His son—he was caught fleeing the Longbottoms' house with the Lestranges."
Minerva faltered. "What—Crouch—the boy?" She had to rack her brains for a moment to remember; he couldn't have left Hogwarts very long ago—shortly before the Potters, if she wasn't wrong. She remembered an exceedingly bright, quiet Ravenclaw boy, and not much else.
Then, an image of Augusta as she had appeared at the wedding floated to the front of Minerva's mind: her genteel, impressive self, but worn and exhausted from grief, and she felt a surge of anger. "And Barty Crouch has been covering this up for months—"
Elphinstone tried to forestall her, "Not exactly—you know I don't like him much, Minerva, but you know his stance on Dark Magic, and but people were terrified of making him angry, accusing his son—"
"How long have you known?" she demanded. "You know that I talk to Augusta—you know how sick with worry I've been about this case—and you knew who it was!"
"What good would it have done?" Elphinstone asked. "I shouldn't be saying any of this now, so I certainly couldn't have said anything before we were married. Did you want me to tell you last week, so that you could have that on your mind, in addition to having Severus Snape joining the staff? Did you want me to tell you on our wedding night?"
"I don't believe it," Minerva said furiously, throwing her hands up and getting up from the bed. She grabbed her dressing gown and put it on, dropping down in front of her dressing table starting to undo her long plait.
"Minerva, I'm as upset as you are," Elphinstone said, standing as well and approaching her from behind. "I've been railing about this since I found out, which, for your information, was more recent than you think. But they've dug themselves into their own hole this time, keeping his identity a secret, and half the wizarding world will be calling for Barty's head on a platter—he's about to lose everything over a decision he didn't make!"
"A decision he—a decision he didn't make?" Minerva repeated, turning around to face him with an incredulous look on her face. "You're telling me that Barty Crouch didn't make the choice to keep this quiet as long as he could? That he wasn't trying everything he could to get his son off the block for this? For driving two people—two of your people—insane?"
Elphinstone's jaw twitched, and he was silent.
"I'm sorry," Minerva said quietly, softening a bit. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that."
"Barty's underlings made the decision, thinking the boy's involvement was less than it was and that he could be exonerated. It wasn't until a month ago that they realized he couldn't be, but by then it was too late; it had gotten out of hand. Barty's wife is dying, Minerva, he's barely been able to handle anything in the office for months apart from these trials, and you've seen how vicious he's been," Elphinstone told her. "But I'm sorry I didn't tell you. Really."
Minerva pressed a fist to her forehead and shut her eyes for a moment. "I'm sorry, too," she said. "I'm—I'm not upset with you. You know that." She took a deep breath.
"I do," he said gently, drawing up a chair with his wand and sitting down beside her. He took her hands in his. "Did we just have our first real fight?"
Minerva looked down at the rings on their fingers and smiled, albeit a little tensely. "We did." She took a breath through her nose and looked around, a little sheepishly. "The house is still standing."
"I'm impressed," Elphinstone grinned, leaning forward to kiss her; she smiled and kissed him back.
"So," she said, in a deliberately calm voice. "The news of the cover-up breaks today. Tell me why that means you're staying in London tonight?"
"Only if the press gets out of control. All Heads of Department are meant to be on call all day and tonight. You know how Rita Skeeter loves me," he added with a smirk.
Minerva smiled and brushed a hand through his hair, pressing a kiss against his cheek. "Well, it was a nice marriage while it lasted."
"Yes, I'll send you a postcard from wherever we elope to," he replied sarcastically.
"Try to get home, all right? I'll be at the Sorting, and then we have to make sure they all get to their proper dormitories," she told him. "And Albus will likely want to speak with me…so don't worry about waking me up."
Elphinstone smiled and nodded, wrapping his arms around her. "I love you," he murmured in her ear.
"I love you too," she replied, before drawing back and giving him another gentle kiss. "Now go, you'll be late."
"Can't wait to hear about the new Gryffindors!" he called, already heading down the narrow stairs to the front door. "And I'll want to know where Tommy gets Sorted!"
Minerva smiled and shook her head, facing her mirror again, and began to comb her hair.