A/N:I wrote this a little while ago for Fran Drake as a Secret Santa gift over of the ADMM boards. Found it now and thought I would share. I'll admit that it originated from a plotbunny of tabbyhearts, what can I say? - The furry thing nibbled my little toe.
To: Fran Drake
Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling's characters, I'm just playing with them. As for the title, well, it is a little twist from The Bonnie Lass o' Ruily.
Curly, Fair Hair Beneath His Hat
In a moment of rare self-indulgence, Minerva McGonagall lay before the hearth simply entranced by the firelight. The flames mesmerised her, licking the logs causing them to pop and crackle. Her head rested in the lap of her companion, her legs dangled over the arm of the settee. Occasionally her companion would lazily flick his hand causing figures to flare in the flames, when the mood took him he would blow a cool breath causing the firelight to change colour. The mindless entertainment made a nice change for the two sprawled in front of the hearth.
It was a frosty evening in late December; peace had only been restored to their world but a few months previously. Parties had been non-stop ever since, all thanks to little Harry Potter. Minerva did not like to linger upon that thought.
She leant her head backwards even further to look the wizard in the eye. He merely smiled roguishly, bending forward to claim her lips. Minerva supposed a few more moments couldn't hurt but when she finally did pull away, a slight sigh escaped her.
"I suppose we should get ready."
The two were invited to a Christmas party at Thistle Hall. Over the past few months Minerva had shied away from the celebrations finding the price with which victory was one, a high one indeed. She spared a quick glance out the window, the wind was howling. Despite her reluctance, Minerva tried to straighten up but Hamish's hand crept around her waist hindering her progress. He pulled her back, whispering in her ear,
"Why don't we just skip tonight and…"
He trailed off, kissing her neck and Minerva was sorely tempted but the clock chiming half past six snapped her out of her reverie.
"Make love? Hamish I can't believe you!" She batted him away whilst trying to step to her feet with as much dignity as possible, her skirts all a twist. "Get up, get up this instance!"
"Don't you mean have sex?" Hamish chuckled, leaning further back on the sofa, pulling her down with him.
Minerva arched a regal eyebrow conveying her annoyance.
"No, sex is raw, unrefined and impulsive, whilst love is…" She trailed off, unsure how to articulate such feelings.
"An emotional expression separating us from the animal kingdom?"
Another chuckle escaped Hamish's lips, he loved to tease her.
"Actually, I was going to say easier on my back." She refused to let him win. "Don't you love growing old?" Despite herself, Minerva settled into his embrace.
"No, I hate it." Hamish replied, kissing the top of her head. They lay that way for a few more moments before he added in a more serious tone, "Your back still hurts? Here, let me give you a massage."
Minerva had pulled a muscle exercising in her animagus form two days earlier. Not that she came straight out and admitted it, Hamish had had to wrangle that out of her and even his best efforts could not convince her to take a potion. It was her own foolery and so she would suffer the consequences. One day, he vowed, he would uncover the source of her 'fervent dislike' of potions.
"Really, Hamish, there is no need."
She tried to stand but Hamish was quite determined.
"Maybe not but I want to. Come on," he gestured with his finger, "roll over."
She sat with her arms folded and a frown forming.
"Min." Minerva could hear his disappointment wrapped around the vowel, the argument was no longer about a simple massage.
Out of habit she corrected him. "–Erva. And I'm not in the mood."
He did not reply and she knew she had upset him but she was never any good at apologising.
He remained silent; the fire crackling in the grate was no longer a comfort but an unwelcome reminder of her shortcomings. Carefully, Hamish secretly confessed,
"I like to do things for you but when you…"
She hated to disappoint him but they both knew she would never be the witch he wished for. That's why it hadn't worked out the first time.
"When I what?"
Her fingers crept along the cushion until she held his hand. More comfort was difficult to offer but Hamish understood the gesture and appreciated it nonetheless.
"Sometimes you seem like sand running through my fingers." He had been gazing into the flames but with a hint of desperation gleaming in his grey orbs, he turned to her. "Where are we, Minerva? As of now, where do we stand?"
If he pushed too far he would only send her running.
"Just be there for me, Hamish." Her voice came out in a whisper.
"I suppose it just makes me wonder." He let out another deep breath. "How do you interpret being there for you?"
His fingers curled around hers all the more tightly, a storm was coming and she knew that he wished to be her anchor. He was stubborn and simply refused to let the same argument split them apart again.
"Well," she began hesitantly, knowing how unsatisfactory he would find her explanation. "It means being there when I need you."
His answer caught her off guard; he was growing soft in his old age.
"And what if I want to be there when you don't?"
They were straying perilously close to unchartered territory. Should she tackle the issue or skirt around it for another few years? Where had her Gryffindor bravery fled? In the end it was Hamish who broke the silence.
"You are wearing my ring, what say we set a date?"
Minerva struggled not to bite her bottom lip; her thumb nervously touched the engagement ring. The diamond sparkled threateningly in the firelight.
"W-When did you – " She coughed to clear her throat. "When did you have in mind? It won't be easy if I have to take time off work –"
"Minerva it's our wedding!"
" –The summer holidays? I'll have weeks off to spend entirely with you."
She was rambling and even to her own ears her voice was a note higher.
"Actually I was thinking more along the lines of half-term."
She paled and her eyebrows rose.
Hamish gave a rueful smile, scootching closer. "Well, you didn't want a big wedding, haven't changed your mind have you?"
The fire was stifling, her robes itchingly tight.
"Well, no but –"
"No buts." He kissed her ring. "Let's keep this simple. You. Me. Together." Then she watched as uncertainty shaded his eyes. "Of course, if you're having second thoughts…"
He trailed off, his grasp becoming slack. She quickly tried to rectify the situation.
"Oh, no, no. It just seems so sudden is all."
She tilted her head to catch his gaze, giving him an apologetic smile, which grew wider as he returned it. She allowed him to wrap her in his arms, swallowing her treachery.
She was forced to close her eyes at his whispered secret. What hurt most of all was how ardently he believed his words, which she simply could not allow.
"I'm far from perfect."
"Not to me."
He caught her chin, willing her eyes open, the soft tips of his fingers trailing along her thin lips.
"I suppose I just want to be sure," she replied softly.
"I'm not him."
Hamish's eyes were grey, so unlike the pair of blue tearing them both apart. Hamish MacFarlan was not a naturally soft wizard, those eyes could shine as hard as steel and as cold as the shadows behind ice. However, when turned upon Minerva, those grey eyes were nothing but as soft as dusk on the wing of a dove and well she knew it.
"No, you're here."
There was an element of surprise in her voice laced with sorrow.
"He's a fool, Minerva. However did he let you go?"
She leant up and kissed his cheek, whispering conspiratorially,
"I was never his to keep."
Although a confession it was as much of a warning to Hamish. They could have continued down that path but Hamish knew from experience he would be fighting a losing battle so he opted for another tried and proved tactic – teasing.
"Quite right, caged kittens can get awfully…disgruntled."
Very slowly the nails on her right hand grew into those of her animagus paw as she traced the outline of his square jaw. She kissed him hard, nipping his lip, allowing her claws to carefully dig into the side of his neck.
"I've also heard tardiness can rile a lioness like nothing else."
With that she left him sitting in the living room, his laughter following her to the bedroom.
An hour and a half later found Minerva and Hamish rocking gently in the back of a stagecoach being pulled by four black mares. The horses' shoes clip-clopped against the cobbled path, their breaths misting in the night air. Further north the wind had settled down and the stars peeped forth between the clouds. Nevertheless it was a bitter cold evening.
"We're late, Hamish! You know how I hate to be late!"
"For a very important date. Hush now lassie, don't get in a state."
Minerva could feel the corner of her mouth twitch but she refused to show her amusement. She fiddled with her skirts, thinking she really should have worn the blue gown.
"You'll make yourself ill and lose weight. Then our problems really will be great! All because we weren't there as the clock struck eight!"
"Well I shall try to exercise patience, if you promise to exert a decent amount of decorum."
Hamish kissed her gloved hand as Minerva's smile broke forth.
"I thought you of all people would appreciate my poetry, awful or otherwise."
She gave him a playful slap, the wizard knew one too many family secrets. Indeed, that was why she felt safe with him, he knew all of hers and loved her regardless.
"My nose is red and my feet are blue,"
Her hair was charmed curly, cut just below the shoulder, a new style Hamish expressed a liking for. She ran a hand through a lock pretending to ignore Hamish's inane nattering, he was never this silly in company, and it endeared him all the more to her.
"A kiss from Miss Minnie, will warm me through!"
Out of the carriage windows they glimpsed their destination and the sound of hoof beats changed to the crunch of gravel.
"He'll be here tonight I suppose." Hamish sighed, all playfulness gone. Minerva's guilt came flooding back. "Are you sure you don't want to give this party a miss?"
Minerva did not answer but stared steadfastly out into the night sky. She knew and too some extent could understand Hamish's disappointment and frustration. Now that the war was over, Albus Dumbledore felt free to pursue Minerva once again, but to Albus's dismay, Minerva was now seeing Hamish…again. Over the past few months Albus saw to it that he was included in most things she did and though he was never entirely alone with Minerva, it was to be enough. Hamish and Minerva had dated, quite seriously in fact, back when Minerva had first joined Hogwarts. However, living in such close proximity to Albus Dumbledore, Minerva's first love, had caused an enormous strain on their relationship. It had ended with Hamish asking 'How can I compete with a legend?' Things with Albus had not worked out either, 'Your safety is of the upmost importance.' Thus ended another relationship. Now it seemed history was doomed to repeat itself.
"The thing is," Hamish confessed, "I can't blame him. If I ever let you slip through my fingers…again, I have no idea what I would be capable of."
He clasped her hands, action echoing words. The horses came to a halt and a house-elf opened their door and folded down the steps. Hamish got out first then assisted Minerva, her crisp white petticoats peeked forth beneath her midnight black skirts, which gleamed in the starlight.
Before they could step over the threshold their host was upon them – Davina Lochrin, Minerva's second cousin. They bore no resemblance whatsoever; Davina was a petite, olive skinned witch with a penchant for gossip. When Minerva's mother had died, Davina's own mother, Ethel, had done her best by Minerva. They had grown up together, with Davina being barely two years older than Minerva.
"Where have you been? You're late! Never mind that, you're here now. Minerva darling, give your cloak to Beasle. – Beasle! – You'll never guess who's here darling, never! Frankie! You know, Frankie! Frankie Bucks! That's right little Frankie Bucks! He came strolling in here with Celestina, well you can imagine my surprise when she introduced him as Francis Starbuckle, the Francis Starbuckle dominating the waves of WWN! He hasn't changed Minerva, you'll recognise him straight away. Well, he's grown a few inches and his hair is green now but other than that he hasn't changed. I told you that boy was going places, didn't I? Far too good for that little hotel, what was it called again? Do you know, I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the establishment! How strange, never mind, Frankie will no doubt recall. Oh, Minerva, he's adorable, all grown up into a fine gentleman, but he'll always be little Frankie Bucks to us, won't he darling! Just wait until you see him. Oh! Where are my manners? – Phinsy – She'll mix you up a drink. What would you like? You simply must have this new concoction of hers, Forbidden Flame. The first had me coughing smoke but by the third you're quite used to it. Yes, I think I'll have another too, two Forbidden Flames it is then, you are a bad influence on me, Minerva!"
Half an hour later, having become reacquainted with young Frankie from Le Grande, Paris, who had indeed grown up and dyed his hair green, and emptying her ridiculous concoction into an unobtrusive potted plant, Minerva had managed to escape the crowds and stood alone in the conservatory save for a three hags huddled in the corner, she had a sneaky suspicion that they were Celestina's backup singers.
"She misses Donald terribly." Minerva turned to find Davina's husband, Torquil, beside her. "And the children. Them all really."
Donald McKinnon, Davina's brother, and his wife Marlene, and their three children had been murdered by You Know Who himself. Davina had taken their deaths terribly hard, she was devastated, even going so far as to blame Marlene for being such a talented witch. Donald had been more the Ravenclaw ensconced in theory.
"She's coping though. I'm glad she's enjoying her party. One too many cocktails but if it brings a smile to her face, well who can begrudge her?"
"Yes, almost back to her bossy old self."
Minerva's comment brought a well needed smile to Torquil's face.
"Your words not mine!"
"It's early days yet, Torquil, the losses suffered were great indeed. We'll all need time to get back on an even keel."
They fell silent and though it was not quite awkward it was not altogether comfortable either. Torquil took it upon himself to salvage the conversation, and Minerva could hear the forced enthusiasm and strained cheerfulness.
"Quite the turn out, though! Celeste popped in with this Francis fellow, an old acquaintance?" Barely stopping for Minerva's nod. "Fletwock took a particular liking to your entrance, last I saw she was out in the stables." A small frown of confusion creased Torquil's countenance until he continued. "Iggy and Lucy portkeyed back from Aeaea. Oh yes, while I remember, Miranda wanted a word about that book of hers. Rodders has taken refuge in the front room but by the looks of things it won't take long for Hamish, Josie and Devlin to hunt him out."
Minerva placed a gentle hand upon his arm and Torquil knew he had been caught out.
"You can't hide him forever," Minerva quirked a lopsided smile. "I had the good fortune of bumping into Cassandra Vablatsky, though whether she has seen Dumbledore of has Seen him I'm not sure."
"Ah," Torquil's cheeks flushed pink.
"It's alright, honestly. Merlin, I work for the wizard after all!"
"I know but Vina did mention you were not best pleased with him, the Potter child and all."
It was true that she did not agree with Albus's choice to leave the child with those muggles but the final decision lay with him after all and it seemed to Minerva that when contemplating life altering decisions he very rarely listened to her.
"He broke your heart."
Minerva's eyes widened in shock. Like a bolt out of the blue and said with such certainty Minerva could ill refute. Whatever came over him? Just what was that elf – Phinsy? – serving? His claim echoed through her mind.
"I'm sorry, Minerva, that was out of line."
Slowly she came back to herself, colour rushed to her cheeks, her eyes narrowed and her jaw clenched.
"Yes, it was, completely out of line." Once again silence lapped between them but Minerva remembered that Torquil had been her friend for a very long time, he had taught her how to harness her magic to make a flower bloom back when she was only seven years old. She lowered her voice in the hopes of hiding her despair, "Is it that obvious?"
He took her hand and placed it within the crook of his arm, giving it a gentle pat, before slowly leading the way back to the party and the other guests.
"I sense there are many secrets, Min –"
He gave a small smile and nodded in defeat. "Minerva, and if we stick around long enough we just might be fortunate to hear them. Hamish has been around for a while."
"A very long while." It was confirmation to his unasked question – yes Hamish did know.
And so Minerva went back to the party, she found Hamish and stayed close for most of the evening, not necessarily out of affection but rather fear of what might happen if faced with those blue eyes all alone. As the moon rose higher in the starlit sky their encounter grew more inevitable. On the way back from the ladies' room Albus Dumbledore cornered her. He looked spectacular in robes of purple but Minerva willed herself not to think of that.
"Your hair looks…different."
Rather self-consciously, Minerva ran a nervous hand through her curls.
"Hamish likes it!" She snapped defiantly and it annoyed her all the more that he chose to ignore her comment.
"I haven't seen you around for a while."
She knew from experience that his piercing gaze could be as disarming as an Expelliarmus but she refused to back down. She set her face into a fierce scowl, her lips thin and her green eyes flashing dangerously in the low lighting.
"It takes seventeen muscles to smile and over thirty-four to scowl."
"I like to keep fit," her chin jutted out with an air of inferiority. "I only missed dinner once last week," referring back to his earlier remark.
He stepped closer but Minerva merely squared her shoulders.
"That isn't what I meant, and well you know."
"You mean your bed has been cold these many nights?" She feigned nonchalance and caught the glimpse of pain in his eyes, revenge was not quite as sweet after all. He seemed to take a moment to compose himself but his voice did not waver when next he answered.
"Our relationship was never about that."
She rounded on him, nostrils flared.
"Then why can't we just me be friends?"
A touch of pain managed to creep into his voice.
"You're my best friend."
She fell short at the tinker of laughter and reality came flooding back. Footsteps were heard on the landing but they turned left and faded away. A sidelong glance at Albus informed him that this was not a conversation for a Christmas party and luckily he seemed to agree for once. She made to move past him but he held up a hand to stop her.
"Have dinner with me tomorrow, eight o'clock."
Again Minerva questioned Philspy's creditability behind the bar.
"I will not be having dinner with you, Headmaster." Her tone was clip, formality was seriously lacking in the conversation but unfortunately Albus was unperturbed.
"If you're serious about the quidditch player at least have the decency to not lie when you blame the wine."
"I will not be blaming the wine."
"Excellent," he clapped, a twinkle in his eye. "I love a witch without excuses."
He was presumptive and it was time to put him straight.
"Don't fool yourself, I will not be going anywhere with you."
"No?" Again she made to push past. "Then why is your hand in mine?"
As she looked down, indeed their fingers were entwined. He could play her like a violin. Her treacherous heart longed to envelope him close but when she thought of holding him, she thought of never letting go. Her tolerance had been reached. She wrenched her hands free and as light as the wind Minerva darted down the hall, shoving Albus out of the way in the process. She passed the staircase, which would lead back to the party, but did not stop, instead choosing to seek a moment away from the laughter, music and merriment to compose herself. Fighting the urge to leave the party entirely, Minerva sought solitude in the library but it proved short lived.
As she stared out of the window the door creaked open behind her. She did not bother to turn around as there was no doubting who she would come face to face with. The light from the hallway cast a recognisable shadow. She stood, rather pathetically in her opinion, with her arms wrapped protectively across her chest, grateful she had managed to stem her tears down to mere snuffles.
"Where you are is where I want to be, Min."
Minerva held up a hand in a futile effort to ward off Albus's words.
"It is hopeless fighting this."
"Go away, Albus! Please, just leave me alone!"
Her hands balled into fists as she heard him stepping further into the room, the door closing behind him and the light disappearing once again.
"How are things with your quidditch player?"
He was goading her so she attacked as best as she knew how – allowing her temper to flare.
"Fine! Why wouldn't they be?"
"I live in hope."
His utterance was mumbled under his breath but they both knew she had heard him. As he continued to come closer Minerva's panic rose.
"In fact, Hamish and I have set a date for the wedding."
She heard his footsteps falter and could not help a smug sneer of victory cross her features.
Follow up with a quick attack, a lesson learnt the hard way.
"That seems indecently hasty."
"It is what we both want."
Persevere in the hopes of at least one of them believing the words.
Albus was skilled in giving answers which were not answers at all.
"Aren't you going to wish me well?"
"I'm not sure I want to see you happily married to someone else."
It was always a long shot hoping to catch him off guard.
Minerva was quickly growing weary of their never-ending argument but it seemed she was not the only one as Albus vented his frustration, quite surprisingly, by grabbing hold of her shoulders.
"This is perverse! You don't marry someone who is entirely wrong for you just because you find the one who is completely right somewhat...troublesome."
Well if he could raise his voice so could she. Minerva spun around hard, releasing herself from his grip. She pointed her finger threateningly as her voice rose in volume.
"Troublesome? You know nothing about sustaining a relationship! As soon as the going gets tough, by Merlin, the tough gets going! I've offered you friendship but even that won't stay on the table for long!"
In the face of her ire Albus managed to reign in his temper.
"I'm a poor loser, Min."
Those blue eyes were begging so she turned around favouring the view outside. Her rebuke came out softer than expected.
"Only you were making it a contest."
His hands came up around her shoulders again, only this time much more gently, the atmosphere inside the library had changed. Delicious tingles shot to the very tips of her fingers as he rubbed his hands along her arms. Biting back a moan threatening to escape her lips, she shook her head in a vain attempt to dispel the memories.
"My mind is made up, Albus."
She felt his beard sweep across her shoulder as he leant in close to whisper in her ear.
"You are so beautiful it's indecent."
She tried to shrug him off but much like the unforgivable curses, with no real intent behind them the attempt proves unsuccessful.
"Stop hiding your heart."
His command was followed by a light kiss below her ear. They both knew she was not immune to seduction.
"Do you want the truth?"
She felt him smile even before he answered.
"It would be a nice change of pace."
She turned around to look him straight in the eye, there was to be no question of her sincerity.
"I have never loved you more than I do in this moment."
Very carefully, timidly, so unlike his earlier fit of rage, Albus leant forward and claimed her ruby lips for his own. When the kiss ended she pulled back and continued, shattering both their hearts in the process.
"But Albus, we're like wormwood and valerian roots, two seemingly harmless compounds that when mixed prescribe the main ingredients for Draught of the Living Dead!"
"You're going to marry him." His words were laced with an unusual mix of disbelief and certainty.
Her fingers tenderly traced the line of his jaw hidden behind a great beard.
"What we have is special, something which I'll never experience with anyone else."
"Not special enough to make it last!"
Albus had said himself that their hard earned peace was only temporary, how long before war broke out again and Albus once more decided she was too precious to jeopardise? He would push her away just like the other times, the difference being Minerva was too old to wait for him again. If he had taught her anything it was to live in the here and now.
"You were my first Albus. You never forget your first love."
For the briefest of moments his eyes took on a glazed look, lost in the haze of memories, before focusing once again upon her. She fleetingly wondered of whom he was recollecting.
"No, I don't suppose you ever do."
He leant down and kissed her one last time, it was to be a kiss goodbye.
"I love you, Min, and if you can't be mine then know that I am yours. Forever."
Achingly he stepped away, his hands trailing along her arm and their fingers entwining for precious seconds. She wanted to reach out and hold him tight but memories of the many lonely nights clouded her mind. How long before he was gone again?
"Move on, Albus," Minerva shook her head. "We are too far apart to keep living this close. We must not –"
"Feel this way? Forever, Min. Forever."
"When you are young you believe that nothing can hurt you, that you are invincible. You have big plans. You find your perfect match, that one special someone that completes you. But then you grow older and find life is not that simple. War turns the world upside down and you realise how your plans change. In the end you find yourself looking back instead of looking forward, hoping that through those decisions you made the most of what life gave you. You want to believe that you are leaving something of significance behind. You want it all to have been worth it, each second to have mattered. Albus, Fidelius charms or a low-key relationship during times of peace, what will any of it have mattered if I have hidden it from the world?"
"Believe me when I say that I will always cherish each and every single one of our secret glances and stolen kisses. They mean more to me than any defeat over the vilest of dark wizards."
With that he was gone and shortly thereafter Minerva headed back to the party knowing her absence would not go unnoticed for much longer. Celestina Warbeck and Francis Starbuckle were singing a duet accompanied by the hags Minerva had spied earlier. She paused in the doorway to the music room, searching the crowd for Hamish but instead caught the eye of Torquil. He raised a knowing eyebrow and met her halfway across the room.
"Is in the front room," he interrupted, then paused no doubt waiting for Minerva to shed some light. "With the rest of the lot from Games and Sports. No doubt reminiscing about the good old days. Will I have the stagecoach brought around?"
"Yes, thank you, we had best be heading off."
It was her turn to cut him off.
"Thank you for inviting us, Torquil, and thank you for…well, thank you. And Davina?"
Torquil took Minerva's arm and guided her out of the room.
"She's slipped up to bed but I'll be sure to extend your appreciation."
He kissed her goodnight and headed out the front door, a cold breeze blowing through the opening. Rubbing her arms Minerva entered the front room to the sight of witches and wizards all with their glasses raised in a toast.
"To our wives and our girlfriends," Waldon Whisp exclaimed to raucous cheering. "May they never meet!"
"Here, here," Hamish said quietly, drawing Minerva to him. He kissed her on the lips and whispered privately in her ear, "I am going to love you like this forever."
Minerva felt herself swallow her guilt. Hamish was her future, Albus her past. Treacherous thoughts reminded her that this was the present.
"Roses are blue, violets are red." Hamish whispered for her ears only but Minerva did not let him finish.
"Your rhyming is all wrong, so let's head home to bed!"
A/N: I'm not quite sure what happened here. The story kind of took a hold of itself and ran away without me. At one point I thought that there might be a lemon involved but that kind of fizzed out, I had a whole library scene pictured in my head. I know that there is an awful lot of dialogue and very little description but that is just the way the cookie crumbled. Perhaps there are too many unknown characters, though most are found on the hp-lexicon. I just don't quite know what to say to be honest. Not even sure what section to place it in. Oh and before I forget, if you squint there's a hint of Grindledore, the title is the biggest clue.