Disclaimer: The characters are borrowed and the story is not for profit.

When a woman wants to hide herself away, she doesn't have to lock herself in a convent or a closet. She doesn't have to lurk in a tower or a library. All she has to do is send off the right signals, in the style of her hat, the severity of her hairdo, and the tone of her distant voice, and no one will try to know her beyond what her role, on the Outside, has become.

Minerva McGonagall was ashamed to wear her hair down. She avoided the color red outside her private chambers, the way most people avoid being nude in public. Her robes were old fashioned and somber, and her face was pinched, much like an eyedropper, so that not too much of her emotions would come through.

Perhaps it was strange that no one wondered why this woman–a reputable witch, a whiz at Transfiguration–was never seen earnestly talking politics with friends at the Leaky Cauldron, or holding hands with a husband or lover on a weekend in Diagon Alley.

Sybil Trelawney thought it wasn't strange. It had happened to other women, of course. The rest of the world never batted an eye about it; they couldn't, because when a woman is hiding, it's only the inner eye that can see her at all.

Sybil reached up, running her hands over the lenses and frames of her glasses before setting them carefully onto her bedside table, beside her wand. The blue and black pattern of her bedspread–a Grim picture of the fatal dark dog running in a repeated design through a nighttime landscape–was softened into a gentle blur. A statue in the corner of her room, done in neoclassical design, lost the curves and expressions of a woman and dissolved, in the vagueness of myopia, into a bare straight pillar.

Lifting a basin from a cabinet under her vanity mirror, and extracting a jar of ointment, Sybil began to enjoy the weekly luxury of washing her hair.

The cold water penetrated the mess of tight curls and dripped down onto the scalp, delightfully fresh, like a dip in a quick-running stream. The fresh citrus smell of the ointment reminded her why, after all these years, she was actually growing tired of tea. The red silk robe that she wore just for this ritual was damp in the back, loose and dry in the front, sensual and comfortable.

When the three short, sharp knocks landed on Sybil's door, she was entirely relaxed.


McGonagall was wearing navy blue robes, cinched at the waist, and her hair was drawn back in a bun. "Trelawney," she said, with a brief nod. Her eyes barely widened at the absence of the thick glasses, or the presence of wet hair dripping on red silk. "Mr. Potter says you have been dropping 'prophecies' lightly." Minerva looked at the bedspread with distaste. "Why is it that you have been going on for years about a so-called 'Grim'?"

Sybil laughed. "You mean it took him until now to tell you? I've been giving that prophecy since Potter's third year."

McGonagall came closer. "Why is that, Trelawney?" she said, and the anger that entered her voice cracked the constant severe calm of her face. "Do you have a death wish for the Boy-Who-

"Oh, please, Minerva; as if Albus would hire someone who did?"

McGonagall grabbed Trelawney by the shoulders and shook her. "The Headmaster hired Quirrel. He was blind to Crouch Jr., who simply used polyjuice...even children have been known to brew polyjuice! Albus would hire anyone, but it's not him you have to convince."

Minerva McGonagall had all the passion of a young woman burning in her angry eyes, eyes that to Sybil were large, misty, unfocused pools of brown. Sybil was entirely relaxed...resentment,
jealousy, and all the other nasty bits of herself never came to the surface at times like this. It was like being drunk, she thought, as she allowed the rainbow swirls to come to the surface of her ordinarily jade-green eyes. Yes, she thought, as her inner eye drifted into the sharp, prim, mind of Minerva McGonagall...yes, inhibitions were definitely lowered.

"Minerva," Sybil said–and the statue of the Goddess of Wisdom looked on, because there were,
after all, two Minervas occupying this one room. "Don't you know, that unless you actually have a vial of veritaserum secreted under your robes, that the only way you can trust me is to know me?"

"I want to have my answer," McGonagall said, but one of her hands, as if of its own volition, was clasping the damp locks of Sybil's hair.

McGonagall felt hypnotized by the rainbow eyes, and by the strong scent of citrus. Vaguely it occured to her that she had always assumed it was Trelawney's glasses, and not her actual eyes,
that had the rainbow swirls. She tried to look away, but everything seemed entrancingly vivid–Sybil's thin, somber, slightly pink mouth; the individual water droplets falling onto the silk, the loose robes and the small breasts underneath.

"Then get to know me." Trelawny leaned back against the headboard of her bed, her bottom on top of the head of a vicious Grim.

McGonagall turned away.

"Sometimes it's good to be afraid," Trelawney said, before her colleague could leave the room. "Knowledge of the worst that could happen is a security blanket in times like these."

Sybil reached over to the bedside table, scarcely able to see, feeling around for her wand. She lifted it, but her glasses shattered on the floor in the same instant as she cast her spell on McGonagall's hair.

"Let your hair down, Minerva," Sybil said. "I thought you wanted to know me."

The brittle strands of brown and grey fell loose around McGonagall's face, and the pinched features suddenly gained a hint of beauty, the kind of wise beauty that grown children remember in their mothers. Her practical shoes disappeared from her feet, and the belt of her robe loosened.

McGonagall withdrew her wand from her robe pocket; her eyes were focused on the mess of glass and wire.

"Reparo," she said softly; she was barefoot and noiseless when she left the room.