A kiss is just a kiss… isn't it?
"The huntsman lifted Sapphire easily into his tanned, muscular arms and carried her off to safety in the shady glens of a nearby wood. Behind them the sounds of battle continued to ring out but Sapphire didn't care. All she could see was the deep chocolate-brown eyes of her rescuer gazing concernedly into hers as he laid her delicately on the grass and stroked her long blonde hair away from her eyes.
'Are you all right?' he asked in deep, gravelled tones.
'Oh, yes,' Sapphire whispered. 'Thanks to you.'
The huntsman leaned closer-"
In the dimly lit living room of number twelve Grimmauld Place, Mundungus Fletcher whoops loudly. Sirius is reading aloud a passage from a romance novel he found in the kitchen and currently his audience consists of Remus, Tonks and Arthur, as well as Mundungus, who wasn't invited but joined them anyway and who is enjoying the show immensely. The origin of the book is hotly debated. Sirius has already accused Tonks of being guilty of ownership and she has hotly denied it. Remus is pretty sure it's Molly's, since he's seen her reading a similar book when she didn't think anyone was around. But even after several Firewhiskies, Arthur is maintaining discretion and Tonks giggles, rather girlishly for such a confirmed tomboy. Remus is reminded once more of just how young she is and he wonders if she'll still be here laughing when the war really starts.
Minerva McGonagall is curled in an armchair in the corner, still wearing her muggle dress. Her attention is entirely focused on the book she's reading and she's steadfastly ignoring everyone else. But Remus suspects her outwardly aloof demeanour is a calculated attempt to cover up the fact that she's had a little too much to drink. Nobody else has been watching but he has. And that was a full bottle of wine not so long ago…
"As their lips met at last," Sirius continues, "Sapphire felt a sudden warm ache at the very apex of her pleasure and her skin tingled deliciously until she shuddered and-"
"Impossible," Remus interrupts. He wouldn't swear to it, but he's pretty sure that Minerva just stifled a snort. "Nobody can get that aroused from just a kiss. Or that warm. Not fully clothed, anyway."
"Do you mean the time you were snogging Melyssa Aspartin and accidentally set fire to your trousers?" Tonks enquires politely.
"Bloody cousins," Sirius mutters over the resulting laughter. "Go and get me another Firewhisky, Numphadora. If it's not past your bedtime, that is."
"Get your own, you lazy git."
Tonks grabs her own empty glass and disappears.
"Where were we?"
Sirius reaches for the book again, determined not to lose his audience. It's not often he has company on non-meeting nights and he's obviously trying to make the most of it. He's lost his place, though, and has to flick hastily through the well-thumbed pages to discover what happens to Sapphire next.
"I don't believe you," Remus says, partly to fill the silence and partly because it's true.
Sirius shrugs, already losing interest. He's never had much patience and this isn't what he anticipated freedom being like. Even being on the run was more enjoyable than the gloomy confines of Grimmauld Place.
The room quietens and Arthur takes advantage of the lull to announce his departure. He seems a little uncomfortable with the current direction of the conversation and Remus has noticed him glance across to where Molly was sitting earlier on several occasions. He's probably worried he'll wake her if he's any later going to bed. Most of the Order are looking tired and worn these days, but most of them are used to looking that way. The change in Molly's once-cheerful face, however, is rather alarming.
As Arthur leaves, even Minerva looks up from her book to say a polite goodnight. She's not reading cheesy romance novels, of course. Perhaps she should be. 'Emerging Trends in Biomagus Research' is hardly recommended bedtime reading. Minerva's intense concentration gives Remus the opportunity to study her a little more closely than he would usual be able to, a fact he's quite pleased about, though he doesn't know why.
"When did you snog Melyssa Aspartin?" he asks Sirius in an attempt to revive the party, such as it is.
"At school," Sirius mutters. "And before you say anything, that wasn't the time I meant."
"Then what was?"
"None of your business."
"Maybe you've never been kissed properly," Minerva says unexpectedly from the corner without taking her eyes from the page.
Sirius stares at her like he's only just realised she's in the room – which, given how much he's had to drink, is probably a fair reflection of the truth. He still hasn't quite got over the memory of having Minerva as a teacher. He nearly choked the other day when she asked if it would be all right to have a bath.
But it's not going to stop him from trying to wind her up now. He lost his usual target when Tonks finally ran out of patience and departed. Now he's sizing Minerva up, wondering how far he can push her.
"So it's happened to you then," is his opening gambit.
Minerva delivers her reply with a precisely arched eyebrow.
"None of your business," she parrots.
She returns her attention to her book, or so it seems. Remus catches himself holding his breath, and even Mundungo has fallen silent: a rare occurrence.
"So it hasn't then?" Sirius continues, brazen as ever.
This earns him an icy stare.
"No, but that doesn't mean that I don't believe it's possible."
There's a sudden draft from the hallway as the door flies open again. Tonks is back, and contrary to expectation she's brought drinks for everyone. Remus declines politely and Mundungus promptly appropriates his glass and adds the contents to his own.
"I believe it," Tonks says cheerfully as she dumps the tray on a nearby sideboard.
"Well, kiss Remus and maybe he'll shut up."
"If you're that bothered then why don't you kiss him, Dog Breath?"
Remus drains the last of his Firewhisky, greatly amused by this latest exchange. Sirius and Tonks are now looking daggers at each other from their respective seats. Pretty soon Minerva will lose patience with them both and then the sparks will really fly.
"Nobody is going to turn me on just by kissing me," he announces boldly.
When he looks round Minerva has indeed forsaken her reading but her stare is focused not on the Black cousins but on Remus. He's just about to challenge her when she abruptly looks away, but only so that she can lay her book to one side and carefully remove her spectacles.
Then, before he can even consider the possibility of what she might be about to do, she stands and marches straight over to where he's sprawled. As he shrinks back, so she leans closer, until her knees are against the edge of sofa and she's straddling his thighs, lifting his face with her hands so that she can claim his mouth with her own. By now he's already surrendered; his mind has short circuited, the room has vanished and all that exists is the weight of her body in his lap and the feather-light caress of her fingers on his skin. He wishes he'd taken a bit more care when he shaved this morning. He wishes this had happened sixteen years ago. He wishes they really were alone, and then it's over and she's pulling away from him and looking even more smug than she did the last time Gryffindor won the Quidditch Cup.
She straightens her clothing in what seems an absurdly prim gesture following her previous actions.
"Good night," she says mildly then gathers her possessions and empty glass, and leaves.
The silence that follows is eventually broken by Mundungus.
"I think she proved you wrong, mate," he leers happily and aims a cushion at Remus' crotch.
But Remus suddenly has no time for his remaining companions.
* * * * *
Out in the hallway, he's about to charge up the stairs when he remembers just who it is that he's following. He chooses the basement door instead, and sure enough Minerva's there in the kitchen carefully rinsing her glass out so that it won't be extra work for Molly in the morning.
She turns to face him, teasing him with her eyes as she returns the glass to its rightful place in the cupboard with surprising grace. She may have had a glass or two more than usual but she's not giving in. The look she's giving him is a challenge, a dare. She's waiting to see if he'll fight back.
And he does. He makes short work of the distance between them and pins her against the sink so that he can kiss her hard, crushing his body against her until a muffled moan of surprise escapes her mouth. His hands move constantly, tempting her with the promise of more intimate touches to follow, until he's certain he's made his point.
Then he releases her and walks away.
"Interesting," he hears her say, just as the door closes.
* * * * *
Upstairs he goes about the usual business of getting ready for bed, brushing his teeth with exaggerated care. Most of the Order have appropriated rooms of their own and hers is just along the hallway from his. Sirius has threatened to raid it in search of her spare undergarments but hasn't yet; probably a wise decision, though Remus would have been interested to see exactly what would have happened to him had he done so.
When he emerges from the bathroom Minerva's waiting just beyond the door, though the first he knows of it is hands grabbing his shoulders and the fading scent of her perfume. For a moment she's breathing heavily against his neck and then he tastes her arousal and her excitement and sweet wine mixed with hot dry whisky. She's bolder now than he could ever imagine her being in sobriety and in daylight, though he acquiesces to the fact that he's never seen that side of her before so how could he ever know? But he likes this game and when she darts away again he doesn't immediately try to follow.
Instead he returns the ambush outside her room but he can't kiss her now because she's giggling helplessly. Footsteps sound on the landing below and, still laughing, she pulls him into her room, closes the door and collapses headlong onto her bed. He wants to join her there but he's not quite sure if he's invited so instead he hovers near the door, wondering what to do next.
As she calms, her expression changes and now she looks at him with affection as well as desire. She smiles, closes her eyes and stretches cat-like on the bed. The part of his anatomy that gave him away downstairs threatens to do the same thing again and he shifts uncomfortably. Now he has sudden feelings of boundaries that he never thought about crossing before, that he never had to think about crossing. She's opened a Pandora's box for him and whatever happens tonight, he knows there'll be consequences that he won't be able to avoid.
"I believe it's your turn," she says huskily.
She's every inch the temptress and she plays the role admirably with her absent spectacles and tousled hair. Remus joins her on the bed but only to perch precariously on the edge and she murmurs her disappointment.
"Perhaps we shouldn't be playing this game," he says calmly, though his heart is racing and an inner voice jeers relentlessly at him for attempting to back out.
"Do you want to stop?"
She's speaking seriously now and he appreciates it, but at the same time he's afraid of what might even now be slipping away.
"No," he admits. "But don't you think we're rushing into this a bit? Don't you want to wait and see how you feel tomorrow?"
"What if there isn't a tomorrow?"
"What if there is?" he counters, folding his arms resolutely.
She takes hold of his hands and gently pulls until he's lying beside her, not touching her but able to meet her gaze.
"Remus, my life… your life... Everything is controlled. Everything we do is because of what someone else has said or done. It's expected. We're here because the Order is here, and we do what Dumbledore wants us to do. Well, just for once I want to do something unexpected. Just for once I want to do something and not spend forever thinking about it and questioning it and wondering if it's the 'right' thing."
"You might regret it."
"I won't. I know I won't, not this. With you."
Remus doesn't speak but entwines his fingers gently with hers. Her breathing is gradually slowing, as is his; her laughter is long forgotten. He can see the sincerity in her eyes and he knows she's more than capable of deciding this for herself. Now he has to think about what he feels, and how much of himself he's willing to risk.
"That's not enough," he says eventually. "If you want this part of me then you have to have all of me, and I have to have all of you. Not just the Minerva everyone else sees. Not just Professor McGonagall. The real you. And if it doesn't last forever then we'll know that it wasn't meant to, and it won't be that we never knew because we never tried. If that makes sense."
"It makes sense," Minerva says solemnly. She frowns thoughtfully from across the pillow. "Remus, do you love me?"
"No. But I feel like I could fall in love with you, if you let me. If I really knew you."
She absorbs this calmly, much as she would the news of a student's detention or the latest Transfiguration Today. But he knows that behind that seemingly untroubled façade she is thinking carefully. He trusts her enough to know that she'd never deliberately hurt him and he hopes that she feels the same. Perhaps he's asked too much of her. Sirius would happily have slept with her and would never have tried to elicit any further motive. And Sirius, Remus grudgingly admits, is better looking and most likely better in bed. But he reminds himself that Minerva is not with Sirius. She's with him, for better or worse now.
And at long last Minerva lifts her eyes to his and he waits for what must be an inevitable rejection.
"All right," she says softly. "All of me it is, then."
He breathes a sigh of silent relief. When she moves to kiss him he meets her gratefully: tired of waiting, tired of playing. Before long they're a lot closer together, but just as he's trying to pull away she adds, "if you really want to know me then this is as good place to start as any."
"I was hoping you'd say that," Remus admits.
"But there's one thing I think we need to do first."
Minerva smiles wickedly.
"Find out how much your kisses can turn me on!"