A/N -- Writing fanfiction is rather like writing a sonnet -- much of the structure is already built in, so the fun comes in seeing if you can play any surprising variations on the form. In this story, I address a question that has already been answered by others, but that I have enjoyed answering for myself: what if the Battle of Hogwarts had been lost? (Lost by our heroes, I mean. In canon, the battle was lost, too, just by the other side.) Initially, the story presented itself to my mind as three short scenes, but it has turned out to be much longer.
It's Minerva-centered. Of course. And the M rating will be more or less justified later.
I'd appreciate hearing what you think, particularly if you note any Americanisms. I plan to post a chapter a week, so if you're interested, mark your Saturday-Sunday calendars.
A Lesson in Logic, or, The Disclaimer:
A. If I owned this series, Minerva McGonagall would be a central character in the Harry Potter books.
B. Minerva McGonagall is not a central character in the Harry Potter books.
C. Ergo. . .
"I think that if you decided not to go back, you would be able to. . .let's say. . .board a train."
"And where would it take me?"
"On," said Dumbledore simply.
--"King's Cross," Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Chapter One -- The New Tutor, Part I
Gemma Braithwaite pushed her way past the coats that hung near the doorway of the cramped office. Sidestepping the piles of folders stacked on the floor, she dropped her bag onto her desk.
The desk was in the farthest corner, but she had a sliver of window -- her reward for having lasted longest on the job. Not that seniority as a tutor at the University of the Midlands indicated anything other than a loser's inability to move on, of course. But you might as well take what benefits you could get, Gemma thought.
She glanced at the woman sitting opposite. Philippa Benton-Smith bent her head over her work, pretending that Gemma hadn't come in. It was quite an act, considering that Gemma had had to slide her bottom along the edge of Phil's desk in order to squeeze to her own.
So. Phil must still be angry that Gemma had been designated head tutor.
Gemma sighed and debated whether to open the subject again, but before she could make up her mind, Philippa said, "The new tutor has arrived." She nodded at the office's third desk, which now held a battered leather bag. "Must be off to the loo or something."
Ah. She was speaking. A truce, then.
"Who is it?" Gemma asked, hoping she didn't sound too pathetically eager to be friends again.
"Name of Mina Morgan," Phil replied.
"Never heard of her," said Gemma.
Phil snorted. "Why would you? She's a part-time physics tutor at an underfunded poly, or whatever we're called now. It's not as if she's going to have any professional reputation."
Gemma had meant only that the new tutor wasn't one of the postgraduate students, the way most of the part-timers were. But she was determined not to argue. "What's she like?" she asked instead.
"I don't know; I haven't seen her. Gordon told me about her. Why haven't you met her? Weren't you in on the hiring? I mean, you are head tutor."
"You know as well as I do that being head tutor only means that now I have to do all the paperwork and scheduling and listen to everyone's complaints," Gemma said, just managing to stop herself from snapping.
"I do know. I'm sorry." Phil sounded genuinely contrite, and Gemma looked up, surprised. Usually it took Phil longer to get over any perceived slight. But she was smiling. "Pax?" she said.
Gemma nodded and smiled back as Philippa went on, "I would have liked the extra money, that's all, little as it is. You know how hard it is to get by, Gem." She paused and then said quickly, "Have you thought any more about moving in with me? We could really save a lot. . ."
"Oh, Phil. . ." Gemma was distressed. Their relationship was so new, and that had been her mistake with Helena -- trying too much too soon. It wasn't a good idea to rush into permanence with someone you'd just become lovers with; experience had taught Gemma that much if nothing else. "Can't we. . ."
They were interrupted by a brisk voice from the doorway. "Miss Braithwaite?"
"Um, yes, that's me," said Gemma, turning around.
The voice belonged to a tall, older woman who let her eyes run over Gemma and Phil for a moment before she said, "I'm Mina Morgan, the new tutor. Mr. Blackstone said to report to you."
She shaded the word "you" with a slight touch of incredulity, as if she couldn't quite believe she'd be subordinate to someone so many years her junior. Or maybe I'm just hearing things, Gemma told herself. She wasn't used to the idea that she had some authority over the other tutors; it was easy to imagine that they were all challenging her.
Since Mina Morgan didn't look as if she intended to step any further into the maze of the office, Gemma stood and wedged her way past Phil's desk to offer her hand. "Hello. Welcome. I'm Gemma; I'm in chemistry, but I'm the, er, supervisor of all the part-time sciences tutors. This is Phil -- Philippa Benton-Smith. She's chemistry, too."
Mina nodded to her. "Miss Benton-Smith."
"Call me Phil." Gemma was pleased that Phil sounded fairly polite; she didn't always take to newcomers. And this tight-lipped Mina Morgan wasn't giving off the warmest of auras; the gaze she sent around the cluttered office seemed disapproving.
She was probably sixty, Gemma decided, and she carried herself with a self-contained, straight-backed elegance despite the odd collection of garments she wore: a shapeless grey-and-yellow-striped jumper, a blue waistcoat, an uneven-edged, long black skirt over rather surprising lace-up black boots with heels. Though it was summer, a tartan woollen muffler was tied round her neck, its fringed ends trailing to her knees. No makeup. No jewellery. Long black-and-silver hair in a loose braid over her shoulder. In one hand, she held an intricately-carved walking stick.
Mina was looking at her expectantly, and Gemma realised with a start that she'd been staring. She felt her cheeks redden and hastened into speech. "Um, there are three more part-timers in the next office; you can meet them tomorrow. This is your desk, well, I guess you already know that. That's your computer; we share the printer. It's rather old, the computer, I mean; there's a better one in the lab that you'll probably prefer to use during your tutorials. We can talk about your schedule a little later; I'm still working on them. There's a kettle in the staff room next to Gordon's office. Just help yourself to tea and milk and things. We take it in turns to buy the supplies. The phone is in the staff room, too, I'm afraid we all have to share. Er. . .what have I forgotten, Phil?"
Phil was looking amused. "I think you said all of that in one breath, Miss Braithwaite. Maybe you should show Mina around."
"Yes, I'll give you the tour, Mina," Gemma agreed, "and then I think Gordon will probably have some papers for you to sign."
As they walked through the labs and lecture halls, Gemma tried to make conversation, but it was slow going. Mina answered as briefly as possible and asked nothing in return. She had taken her degree from Edinburgh, she said. Yes, she was from Scotland. No, she hadn't lived in England long. Yes, she had taught before. Gemma was about to give up in despair, when, to her relief, Philippa joined them in the corridor and took up the conversational reins.
"You've taught before, Mina? Where?"
The older woman raised an eyebrow and waited a beat before answering, "Scotland."
"Yes, but which school?"
"I doubt you've heard of it, Miss Benton-Smith."
"Phil. So what brings you from Scotland to the University of the Midlands?"
This time the pause was so long that Gemma thought Mina wouldn't respond, but finally she said, "My school closed."
Phil ignored the new tutor's obvious reluctance to talk and pressed on. "Where do you. . .?" she was beginning, but Mina Morgan had had enough.
She turned her back on Phil and cut her off firmly. "Now, if you please, Miss Braithwaite, I'd like to hear something about the training and abilities I can expect from the students."
With an apologetic glance at her lover, Gemma launched into a lengthy description. It was probably far more information than Mina wanted, but at least it took them away from dangerous personal waters. Phil kept quiet, thankfully, and the awkward moment passed.
Gemma hated confrontation. Yet she had an uneasy feeling that a term spent sharing an office with Philippa Benton-Smith and Mina Morgan was going to be full of just that.