The Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come

McGonagall's cottage, January 1st

It was a glorious day, with a nice, crisp tang in the air. A day made for a long, brisk walk, which was what Minerva was enjoying at that moment. The previous days had been gloomy and overcast, and she had spent as little time out of doors as possible. But now the fresh air would do her good, she felt. By the time she returned to the cottage, she would truly appreciate its comforts and a strong cup of tea by the fire.

Trulyappreciate? she thought. A week ago you were panting to get here. And she was still enjoying herself thoroughly, but she did realise that by now a day of solitary reading and listening to music was just that. The feeling of utter bliss had diminished somewhat.

At this point, she thought, I could probably do with some company. No, not some company, she corrected, as always relentlessly honest and analytical with herself. She knew perfectly well that she would not be pleased if, let's say, Sybill's Inner Eye were accurate enough to see that feeling of loneliness. And Merlin forbid Sybill acting upon it. Luckily, there was little chance of that. The Inner Eye had been singularly myopic so far, and Minerva knew that the few cases of real, authenticated, not-otherwise-explained predictions all involved major issues. This made it all the more surprising that Sybill continued to report such things as predicting that Snape would stay at Hogwarts for Christmas – he did so every year – or that she had foreseen how a first-year would fall in the lake. Not having the Divine Gift, Minerva had to rely on circumstantial evidence such as a small, huddled figure shivering in the dripping folds of his or her cloak.

She smiled at the image. No, she thought, I'm not at a loss for 'company' in general. But I would have liked to see Rolanda. The Harpies' match wasn't so very far from here, she thought. However, the Harpies had won the day before, as she had heard on the wireless – there was nothing remarkable about a known Quidditch-lover listening to the sports results, she tried to convince herself. So Rolanda had probably stayed with her old team, having a terrific time. No-one could be expected to miss that, just to visit a colleague who had issued a casual invitation.

As she walked past the bend in the quiet country lane leading to the cottage, she redirected her thoughts towards tea, a slice of Dundee cake, and one of her books – but which one would she start on now? Debating the respective attractions of Dickens and a more recent whodunit, she reached the cottage gate almost without noticing.

"You're deep in thought," an unexpected voice said. Minerva looked up. This, she realised, was completely the wrong moment to assess just how much of that butterfly feeling in her stomach, and of that very warm – hot, actually – glow could be attributed to friendship.

"Rolanda! I didn't expect you! I thought that you had stayed with the team – after that victory – really rather marvellous ... Gwenog must be so pleased ... such a win at the start of her career ... I remember her well from her Hogwarts days ... Hufflepuff doesn't stand a chance now that she's left ... "

You're babbling, she thought. Stop it. "Come in," she added, forcing herself to be calm. "Did you fly? You could do with a rest and some tea, then."

She went in, and, followed by Rolanda, headed straight for the kitchen, where she put on the kettle.

"I certainly could do with some tea," Rolanda said. "And yes, I did fly. I always prefer it, and it's such a lovely day, and ..." she hesitated, looked at Minerva and then added, in a somewhat uncertain voice, "And after the match yesterday, we were making rather merry. Quite frankly, I couldn't even think of Apparition this morning without feeling queasy."

Again, she glanced at Minerva, who suddenly realised that the dear girl was actually worried that her Deputy Headmistress would be shocked at the idea of a Hogwarts teacher being the worse for wear. She laughed reassuringly.

"I can imagine," she said. "And a most sensible precaution it was. I remember staying with a friend and her parents for the Christmas holidays – in my student days, that was – and that friend and I, Amelia Bones, do you know her?"

Hooch shook her head.

"Well, Amelia and I went to a Hogmanay party together. We'd agreed to fly back, but it was rather late, and Amelia suggested Apparition. I knew that I would end up scattered all over the place, so I refused. And she said I could Side-along Apparate with her, she was perfectly sober. Well, not perfectly, but enough to Apparate. So I did. And her parents opened the door for us, talking sternly about the dangers of two young, pure, and innocent girls (we were neither of us innocent, nor all that pure) being out amidst drunken revelry. At that point ..."

"What?" Rolanda asked eagerly. "Oh, Merlin, don't tell me ..."

"Yes. Unfortunately, at that very point, I threw up on Mrs. Bones's shoes."

Rolanda howled with laughter. "How absolutely priceless. You poor dear. You must have been so mortified; I do feel for you."

"I can see that you do," Minerva remarked drily. "If we ever produce a play, I had best give you a non-speaking part. Your motivation in this scene would come across more strongly if you were not screaming with laughter. But there is worse to follow.

"I was, indeed, as you so feelingly put it, mortified. And my befuddled brain told me that I should undo the damage at once. Unfortunately, instead of performing a simple Scourgify, I felt the need to do something extra-special, to show the depths of my regret. So I wanted to Transfigure the shoes into elegant lace-up boots."

"And?" Rolanda was hugging herself in gleeful anticipation.

"And you may have noticed that one's speech may get a trifle slurred on such occasions. The poor woman was up to her ankles in booze."

Rolanda, having given up all pretence of pity and fellow-feeling, was holding her sides laughing. Minerva was glad to see that her own story of drunken revelry had put Ro at ease and had made her realise that she was with her friend, not her Deputy Headmistress. She joined in the laughter. As soon as they safely could, they Levitated the tea tray to the sitting room and made themselves comfortable in front of the blazing fire.

Several hours later – wine, some pâté, and cheese had replaced the tea and Dundee cake, and finally a small tumbler of an excellent Single Malt had replaced the wine – Minerva looked at the clock.

"I must go, I've already overstayed my welcome," Ro said, noticing the look.

"Certainly not, I love having you here. I was just thinking that it was rather late for you to fly anywhere – and perhaps Apparition is, again, not the best option. Why don't you stay here?" With a slight feeling of regret, she added: "I have a spare room."

"Wouldn't that be a frightful nuisance? You probably had other plans ..."

The mixture of eagerness and uncertainty was very audible, Minerva thought, slightly amused. You really never should attempt acting, Ro. Or perhaps, she corrected herself sternly, I'm just hearing things I'd like to hear.

"Not at all. I'd really like you to stay," she replied. "Let me show you your room."

Together they walked up the narrow stairs to the first floor. Minerva opened the door of the spare room. "It's only a small one," she said apologetically, "and there isn't an en-suite. But it'll do, I hope."

"It's lovely. Sprigged muslin, just what a room like this should have. It's so kind of you to invite me," Rolanda answered. She turned around to see the rest. It was tiny indeed, with a small chest of drawers and an even smaller wardrobe. But it had everything a guest could need, and the bed looked comfortable and inviting.

"It's lovely," she repeated, turning to look at Minerva. Turning slightly too quickly, she found to her dismay. Minerva's hand steadied her. Their eyes met.

I can't kiss her, Minerva thought. I can't, she's one of my staff, what if I read her wrong? She'd be so embarrassed; it could ruin her career.

Suddenly, she was pulled into Ro's arms and kissed thoroughly. She felt her body tense in surprise. Ro's really had too much to drink, Minerva thought, she'll realise what she's doing and be utterly embarrassed. But in the meantime ... I have this ... let's make the most of it.

Which she did. And 'the most' was quite something. More and more. And more. As she relaxed and leaned into Ro's embrace, she felt her whole body respond to Ro's kisses.

When they finally came up for breath, neither of them quite knew how to look. Or where.

She's as insecure as I am, Minerva realised. But I'm the hostess - what a ridiculous notion that seems. Still, I must...

"Sorry," they both said. They smiled.

"You ..." again, simultaneously.

We could become a decent Greek choir, Min realised. "I'm sorry," she finally said. "Not that ... well, I loved ... I wanted ... but ... " It was an impulse, she thought, Ro regrets it already, I can't say 'I'm in love with you'... it would make everything so awkward for her ... She saw Rolanda take a deep breath. Here comes, she thought, act graciously, make a mild joke out of it, make her feel comfortable with it...

"I think I'm in love with you."

"What?" Minerva gasped.

Never say 'what', dear, say 'pardon'. Minerva heard her mother's voice, at this most inappropriate of moments. She nearly giggled. Nerves, of course.

"You can't mean that. I mean ... I'm so much older ... and ..."

"Not so much. Not much at all. And you're spectacular."

Rolanda took a deep breath. Then the words rushed out. "And I'm in love with you. Felt attracted at first sight, wanted you, and when I really got to know you ... I...

"I'm sorry," she added, as an afterthought.

"Sorry? You're sorry?!" Minerva stared at Rolanda's flushed face, at the muscular body, at the spiky hair. She finally did what she had often longed for and caressed it gently. So soft, she thought wonderingly. You think 'spikes' ... but it's silk ... She leaned forward and kissed Ro again. And again.

"Erm ..." The old, impish look and the cheeky grin were back. "Does this mean that you think you might feel something for me, too?"

"Oh, God, yes. I ... when I first saw you, I thought you were ... well ... sex on legs. But ... what with the job and all that ... and I was so glad that we were friends. I liked you, as well as ... But I wanted you. I missed you, these last few days. And ... I think ..."

They kissed again, not soft and exploring this time, but hard and deep and urgent. Minerva felt Ro pull her closer. She pressed against her, let her hands glide along Ro's back, her strong, square shoulders. She pulled back just enough to feel Ro's breasts. "Oh, Merlin, I want you ...' she whispered. "Bed," was the only answer. Minerva pulled her wand to Transfigure the small single bed. But with the last vestiges of common sense, she took in the size of the room. "My room," she said, her voice hoarse with longing. Together, still holding, still feeling, they stumbled across the landing.

Ro started to unbutton Minerva's robe, kissing her as she went along. As soon as the garment was unbuttoned enough, she let it slip to the floor. "I told you, you're spectacular," she whispered.

"Let me," Minerva said. With trembling fingers she started on Rolanda's clothes. "Let me, I want ..." I want you now, she thought, curse that dratted flying outfit. She reached for her wand, which was in the pocket of her robe, which was in a heap on the floor.

Rolanda followed her movements with her eyes, grinned, and pulled her own wand. "Better now?" she asked, as the clothes disappeared, and Minerva felt herself being pushed back on a soft mattress.

And then there were only Ro's kisses, and Ro's hands on her shoulders, and Ro's breasts touching hers, setting her whole body afire. She arched into Ro's touch, needing her, needing everything, needing it now. Needing her kisses and the tantalizing, butterfly touches on her hip, her leg, her inner thigh, and then, finally, Ro's fingers caressing her, softly first, then more and more urgently.

She felt the tension rise in her body, felt her own hands grasp the sheets, and a voice said "Oh please, yes, now ..." and that was right, she did need Ro now, inside her. "Please .." she heard and she found that the voice was her own. She heard Rolanda laugh delightedly, and then felt Ro's hand on her breast and her fingers inside her and a wave of pleasure that drowned all thought.

Later, much later, when Rolanda had fallen asleep, curled up against her, she stared at the small, moonlit window. Rolanda's taste still on her lips, the smell of her arousal still on her fingers, which, for that very reason, she held close to her face.

And she thought that for the first time, she fully realised the meaning of the words 'at home'. Not walls, not furniture, not a mortgage, not even her books. This. Ro's arms. Would this be how they would spend their Christmases Yet to Come?

Smiling, she fell asleep.

A/N And that was it, folks. I was glad to see that several of you favourited this tale, and I was overjoyed with the reviews.

Next week we'll continue with a Minerva/Snape friendship story, set during the DH year. A sneak preview: Snape needs Minerva's help. The logical thing would be to ask for it. Only, there's the small matter of him having killed Albus sitting between them like a mountain of lemon sherbets ...