A/N: Thanks to the response I had to my last Molly/Minerva piece I decided to write another. I hope this one is as popular as the other. Plus, I've now started writing a longer story, one involving a younger pairing too! I'll get the first chapter up in the next few days.
The mist impaired my vision slightly; still my sharp eyes could pick out a movement ahead in the gloom. My first instinct was to Apparate. These times were far too dangerous to risk any foolishness but as I closed my eyes I felt a hex shoot through the fog. Jumping to my left I avoided it yet crushed my arm against a rock. The pain was searing but I daren't attempt a fix with the menacing figure still lurking in the shadows.
Despite my instructions to the contrary I transformed into my feline self, quickly debating my options. Staying to be placed under one or other of the Unforgivable curses was not an option; I was valued too much by the school to contemplate placing the enemy in a position of power. There was no chance of Apparation; that would involve being in a human form. What Wizarding residences were nearby? The Burrow, the home of the Weasley family, was merely a few miles away I realised. Even with a potentially broken arm it was something I could manage.
Slinking, or limping, past my assailant I set off at a painful trot along the country lane, thankful when I finally arrived in sight of The Burrow. Conscious of how unexpected visitor was received in our world in these troubled times I transformed into my human self at the door and, after briefly examining my oddly-shaped arm, rapped loudly on the door.
A few seconds later Molly's voice floated through the wood. 'Who is it?'
'Minerva McGonagall,' I answered as clearly as possible.
'What?' The tone was suspicious. 'Why are you here?'
'I was attacked. I need assistance.'
'How do I know it's really you? I don't, do I?'
'Molly, it's truly Minerva.' A thought suddenly struck my befuddled mind. 'My Animagus form, if I show that to you will you believe me?'
She took a moment before answering. 'Come to the kitchen window.'
Doing as instructed I proceeded round to the side of the house and stood under hanging light. When her face pressed to the glass I nodded curtly and willed myself into my feline form. Instantly, the locks on the door jangled and she opened it, a fully apologetic wince on her face.
'I'm sorry, Minerva. You hear such things, people impersonating…'
Transforming back I held up my good hand. 'Perfectly understandable, I assure you. I know Albus would've been singularly disappointed had you not followed guidelines.'
Allowing me past into the large disorganised room, she immediately reapplied the security measures then gingerly rolled up my sleeve. 'What happened?'
'I'm not certain. Albus asked me to deliver a package in a Muggle manner. He thought that was best considering current circumstances.'
'That explains the Muggle clothing,' she replied with a wink at my admittedly strange attire. I had hurriedly thrown together a few items and hoped the result was passable. Due to my confrontation I could safely assume it hadn't worked. 'You weren't hit were you?'
'Thankfully not. I injured myself trying to avoid it. This was the closest place I could think of. I hope I'm not intruding…'
'Arthur's working on a batch of hexed… I think he said telefisions. He won't be home until later.'
'What about the children?' I asked, thinking of her six boys, the latest of whom was practically a newborn.
The smile on her face was strained. 'Don't you know? Albus thought it best they were safe with my Squib cousin, they've been gone a month.'
I patted her hand with what I hoped was sympathy. 'Albus has been doing a lot of thinking recently hasn't he?'
Molly didn't answer that, instead she helped me remove my cardigan fully leaving my battered arm in view. 'I don't want to risk fixing this properly; the last time Bill's finger went a bit wrong.'
Feeling leaving that instance in the past was prudent I nodded my approval. 'I'll go to St. Mungo's as soon as it's light enough. 'I'd rather not risk going out in the dark again.'
'Can't you use the Floo Network?'
'It's probable it's being watched. If you want me to leave…'
'Oh, of course not!' Molly burst out. 'I'm glad of the company as a matter of fact. It's too quiet around here. Can I get you anything, a drop of Firewhisky perhaps?'
'That sounds wonderful.'
While she busied herself in the corner I looked around the room. Had I examined when I first entered the absence of the boys would have been evident. Everything that I'd associate with a bunch of (probably) unruly boys was gone and many pictures of redheads stuffed into woolly jumpers were scattered around the walls along with the famous Weasley clock which had the children's hands turned to 'On Holiday'. Arthur's hand, of course, pointed to 'Work' while Molly's own rested on 'Mentally Incapacitated'. When she brought back my large glass I quizzed her about it.
'Oh, that! Arthur had it added as a joke; the trouble is, I seem to be stuck on it. I've no idea why.'
'It's the strength of the time, Molly,' I answered with a sigh. 'I'm sure if I had a clock like yours in my office it would say the same.'
'Now I don't believe that for a moment,' she said, tapping her and on my arm to remove the specks of blood. 'You're the strongest person I know.'
'Then you can't know many people.'
'It's poppycock, Minerva. What's more, you know it is! Lifting up my limp arm gently she whisked a bandage around it. 'That'll just keep it clean until the Healer can see to it.'
'Mmm, do I?' I queried, referring to her first statement. 'All that we've seen in the last years, I haven't been able to rid my mind of some of those sights. These monsters under the hand of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named… I sometimes wonder what I'm battling for.'
'I know you don't mean that,' she said plainly. 'You don't want him to rule.'
'Of course not, that's not in question. But I look at you and Arthur and I see some of the futility of it all. I mean, even Albus has his phoenix.'
Molly smiled gently. 'You're hardly alone, Minerva.'
'No,' I conceded. 'But who would miss me if I was gone?'
'Well, me for one! Do you want another drink?'
'It wouldn't go amiss.'
The pain in my arm began to subside as the Firewhisky worked its own particular brand of magic, warming me from the toes upwards. Molly also began to fall under the influence, her usual looseness becoming insignificant in comparison as she chatted away, predominantly about the boys. I was happy to listen, nodding and sympathising in the right places but still drinking in every word.
While I was listening though something struck me. Finally, after many drinks, I mustered the courage to ask her about it. 'Molly, pardon me if it's just my imagination, but is everything alright between you and Arthur. I know this is none of my concern…'
She put her glass on the table. 'No, no, it's fine. In answer to your question, probably not. He's rarely home, when he is his mind's elsewhere. I feel like you, I think.'
Taking her hand in my own, I ran a finger over the smooth back of it. 'You've got than most, Molly.'
A husband living at the Ministry and my children with a cousin I barely know?'
'They're alive,' I countered. 'That's more than some can claim.'
She shook her head. 'I'm being selfish.'
'You're being human, Molly. In the present climate it isn't a bad thing to be.'
In response, she took up her glass again and filled it to the brim. 'If you say so.'
'Molly,' I said seriously, removing the glass from her hand. 'I think you've had enough.'
'Oh, I have! Believe me, I have!'
When she fell into the inevitable strangled sobs I placed both of the glasses on the table and took her in my arms. It felt strange, my inexperience of intimate situations hindering me slightly until I relaxed, smoothing down her fiery and dabbing her tears away with my fingertips. 'That's it. Let it out.'
'I'm terrified the boys'll be hurt! My cousin can't protect them, what can I do here?'
At any other time I would've defended Albus to the hilt. 'They'll be back soon enough, I'm sure.'
'Not until I guarantee their safety!'
As she rested against me again, I said, 'Oh, Molly! I know it doesn't feel like it but it will be over soon.'
'One way or the other,' she finished for me.
'No, I don't believe in that at all. Everything that is good in this world is in your sons and that all came from you. I truly believe that will make them return to you soon, unharmed.'
She pulled away to look at me. 'Minerva, do you really…?'
'I do,' I cut her off and ran a hand down her tear-stained cheek. 'You are a remarkable woman, Molly.'
'Humph. I think you've had too much to drink.'
Plainly I had or I wouldn't have continued in the manner I did, staring deep into her face. 'Has anyone told you how beautiful you are?'
A blush rose under my fingers. 'You are drunk.'
'No,' I objected quickly. 'I don't mean to make you uncomfortable but… I'm sorry, I had to state the truth.'
'Perhaps we should call it a night,' she said weakly.
I kept eye contact. 'Perhaps we should.' Leaning forward, I brushed my lips against hers so lightly that, as I pulled back, I was certain I could Disapparate and she would never believe what I had just done. I stayed, however, and waited for her reaction.
She closed her eyes then opened them again. Slowly, she ran her tongue over her lips and tucked her hair back behind her ears. Then she raised her own hand up to my hair and released my tightly-packed bun, all the while watching me. When my hair lay cast over my shoulders she stroked it with the back of her hand as she kissed me, throwing an energy at me I was unaware existed.
I had lowered the lights with a flick of my wand at some point and now I rested in an armchair watching Molly sleep on the lumpy sofa. The Burrow was quiet, the only sound being our breathing. All the silence merely served to amplify my feelings; my physical sense of pain that spasmodically reoccurred and the emotions which were raging inside of me.
While I was aware our little liaison had been far from one-sided it was also true that I had been the chief instigator; that made me guiltier than Molly, much more. I had taken advantage of a fragile woman, sought comfort with a person I had no right to. In no way could I excuse my behaviour; I had betrayed Arthur and, in a sense, our entire cause by giving in to my ridiculous impulses.
Standing suddenly I walked around the kitchen and living room, taking in the family setting, the waving photos of both the boys and Arthur Weasley, not to mention the wedding picture hanging over the fire. It was a sweet scene. The childhood couple looked completely at ease with each other, a situation I could not recall ever being in. Well, unless you wished to acknowledge the last few hours of my life. Sighing, I turned from the fire, catching sight of the clock once again. The seven male hands were pointed at their previous stations however Molly's had moved to 'Home'. Intrigued, I padded to the sofa, kneeling down beside her to closely examine her face. Sure enough, the deep worry round her mouth had lessened; she appeared relaxed in sleep, something I was almost certain had not happened since He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named began his spree. With a brief touch of my hand on her cheek she began to stir and I swiftly moved back to the armchair.
She sat up slowly, wiping her hair from her face. Her eyes travelled across the room to rest on my face. 'Oh, Minerva…'
I was immediately injured by the tone though I battled not to show it. 'Can I get you anything?'
Looking away, she surveyed the room and stood quickly. 'Would you look at the state of this place? Arthur'll be home any…'
As she choked on the words I approached her. 'Molly, please sit down.'
'Sit down? With all I have to do?'
'I mean it,' I said firmly in the voice I usually reserved for first-year pupils, touching her arm to force her back into a sitting position. Though she flinched she obeyed. 'Here,' I added as I flicked my wand and a cup of my special-brew tea appeared. 'Drink this.'
For a few minutes she was silent, her slow drinking and the occasional shudder being the only indicators that anything was amiss. Finally, when she had finished the tea, she looked up. 'I don't wish to sound rude but…'
'Go on,' I pressed gently.
She swallowed with obvious difficulty. 'I've betrayed my husband, betrayed my sons, I didn't think I was capable of it. What I've done is despicable, I physically detest myself…'
'Molly, I forbid you to think that way.'
'But what we did!' she shouted, her voice at the pitch of a Mandrake. 'I shouldn't have let it happen.'
'It was all my doing,' I found myself saying. 'You've had a terrible time recently and I took advantage…'
'I'm the married one!'
Trying to take her hand I was pushed away, Molly's other arm flailing wildly, knocking a table lamp over. With growing anger she stood again, picking up the remains of the frame and launching them across the room. Startled, I stepped back. 'Molly, please.'
Pulling her wand out she pointed it at her knitting, blasting it into oblivion. As she started systematically destroying all the remnants of her family life I stood back helplessly. My main intention being to prevent any accidental self-injury I lifted my own wand. I began to shout a Stunning Spell then faltered. I looked at her face, the anguish in her eyes and a thought began to emerge in my mind. Using my natural ability for non-verbal spells, I flicked my wand and turned away, my eyes resting on the clock. Before me Molly's hand turned to 'Mentally Incapacitated' then started swinging backwards and forwards between that and the 'Home' symbol. Glancing over my shoulder I saw Molly coming round from the effects of the spell and the hand finally rested on 'Home'.
'Minerva?' she questioned in her normal tone as she looked around at the debris. 'What happened? I seem to have blacked out.'
Giving the best smile I could muster I repaired the damage with my wand. 'I'm sorry. I rather panicked at a noise. Surely you remember that?'
'Oh,' she said falteringly. 'Yes, of course. Well, I… I haven't been a very good host have I?'
'I assure you, Molly, it's been a pleasant evening.' Picking up my Muggle cardigan I nodded to the lightening sky outside. 'I can be on my way now.'
'What?' She followed my gaze. 'Well, doesn't time fly? Arthur should've been here by now.'
'Thank you for your assistance,' I said curtly. 'I'm sure I'll see you again.'
When I was a safe distance from The Burrow I leaned against a gnarled tree and allowed my emotions to steer for just a moment. Then I pulled my cardigan tight and set off at a walk.
Four days later I rapped again on the Weasley's front door, thankfully in the daylight this time and with a fully healed arm. Molly answered, a questioning look on her face. 'Minerva! I thought you were at St. Mungo's.'
'They couldn't persuade me to stay,' I smiled. 'How are you?'
'Well, bearing up,' she said evenly. 'Won't you come in?'
'I can't stay. I suppose you're missing the children?'
Her face fell slightly. 'As I would my heart.'
'Wait here a moment,' I told her, before disappearing around the corner. When I came back, with baby Ronald in my arms and a file of young boys behind me, she stood amazed.
'Charlie! Bill! Percy! Oh, Fred, George!' Reaching for her youngest son a tearful smile came over her face. 'Haven't you grown?'
'You go unpack, boys,' I instructed the others. They left slowly, each glancing fondly at their mother as their passed. 'Are you alright, Molly?'
'Minerva, how did you..? What about Albus?'
'Let's just say I persuaded him that children should be with their parents,' I replied, gazing at the child in her arms. 'Look after them.'
'Oh, I will!' She leaned over Ron and kissed my cheek. 'Thank you, Minerva.'
After she closed the door I went around to the side of the house to look through the window. For several minutes she stared intently at her baby until the rest of her brood reappeared. Placing Ronald down on the sofa she hugged them each in turn, settling them down and conjuring a small feast. When they began to tuck in I realised my time had passed. Stroking a finger over the place her lips had touched I nodded to myself. The Weasley family was united again, Molly was surrounded by what she desired and, what was most important, she was happy in it.
In times of war you pick your allies and your sacrifices. Mine had been well chosen.