Warnings: Parisian traffic, a Room with a View, and a Peeves cameo.
Author's Notes: Potterverse research has shown that Hooch arguably came of age in the Roaring Twenties. And McGonagall, as we all know, in the Fightin' Forties. Two different worlds, even if the location is the same.
Also as every femslasher knows, if you're looking for representation in fiction, you have to rely on subtext and your imagination. And in some cases, it doesn't take much imagination ...
And of course, without my two brilliant betas there wouldn't be a story at all. Thank you, Kellychambliss and Tetleybag!
Paris, July 1995
"Come on," Rolanda Hooch muttered fervently. "You can do it, you know you can! Just a few inches, just … yes! … Oh, damn. Near miss!"
She had always enjoyed watching Muggle traffic, especially in big cities. A triumph of optimism over reality, that's what it was. And it was fun, too, to observe how Muggles reacted when things go wrong. Today, however, she hadn't been lucky. She'd had great hopes for the young man she'd been observing for the last minute or so. Surely, reading a newspaper in a Parisian traffic jam was asking for trouble? But he had avoided the collision by less than half an inch. With the innate ability of Parisian drivers … Rolanda took a good look at the rather battered car and amended that thought to 'Through a long process of trial and error...'
She leaned back in her chair and sipped her coffee. It was still fun to watch. A cyclist blithely overtook the cars. The drivers scowled. Funny, how some gestures are used in every country, by Muggles and Wizards alike, she thought. Now, what shall I do next? A stroll along the Seine? A terrace in the Marais? Some shopping? That's it! I could do with another book anyhow, and it's always such a pleasure to go back. Not that I'm really going back - the old Shakespeare and Co. closed in … when was it? Somewhere during the Grindelwald days. Still, the new shop is every bit as nice …
As Rolanda strolled along the Left Bank, she thought about her first proper visit to Paris.
All of Paris seemed to be sizzling. It was in the air, in the clothes, in the way the women held their absurdly long cigarette-holders. And to Rolanda, it had been perfectly clear that more sizzling was going on in places quite different from the sedate tearooms she'd been allowed to visit on the well-chaperoned, thoroughly guided trip for Girls of Nice Families on which her family had sent her after she left Hogwarts. There's a far more interesting Paris, she had thought, and someday soon I'll go and see it.
That 'someday soon' had come at last, and with her first professional earnings, she'd rented a cheap room in a small hotel. But it seemed to her, as she strolled around the shop-lined streets on the Left Bank, that it would take a particularly complicated Portkey to find the sizzle.
In the end, she decided to go to the funny little English bookshop she'd seen before - might at least have something decent to read, she thought.
As soon as she entered Shakespeare and Co., however, she realised that it wasn't just any bookshop. It looked more like a meeting place of some kind - a café that happened to have books as well. As she was staring at the interesting-looking - customers? Patrons? What was this place? - an earnest young man sidled up to her and started explaining, in careful, heavily accented English. These were writers, he said. Famous ones, too. He knew them all. Over there was Gertrude. She actually had a Salon, at the rue de Fleurus.
Well, so does my mum, Rolanda thought. Everyone has a sitting room, right? But she felt that it might somehow be the wrong thing to say.
"And over there? You see him? He is Ernest," the young man added in a respectful whisper. By then, Rolanda had decided that her self-appointed guide was not just earnest himself, but rather pompous, too. And very knowledgeable indeed, which was why she accepted his invitation to dinner. And she wasn't disappointed. As soon as she mentioned her wish to see the Parisian nightlife, he took her out to a jazz-club that was mind-blowing.
The first evening, she was content to sit with Ernest-by-nature, and listen to his name-dropping. "That's Kiki - she is the Queen of Montparnasse, you know. And that man she is dancing with - he is a photographer. They are lovers."
The second evening he took her to a club with such an odd name that she didn't dare ask for an explanation. After careful consultation of her dictionary, she found that Le boeuf sur le toit did, indeed, mean 'the ox on the roof'. "They do the … what do you call it … jam session. This is faire le boeuf in French," André had told her.
There, she spent part of the time dutifully listening to André, by now reduced to "this is the Charleston", and by pondering the old 'how many dinners before you're a cock-tease' problem.
And an increasingly large part of the time, she danced.
And then she met Nini.
Paris, July 1995
Rolanda grinned at the memory of Nini. She had immediately known that Nini was a witch. And Nini had immediately known something Rolanda herself was only half aware of at the time. It had not been André's lucky week.
As she pushed open the familiar green door, she thought back to those effervescent days and nights spent in the bookshop, in the jazz-clubs, at a Surrealist Ball in Montmartre, and in Nini's bed. All of Paris, and her own blood as well, seemed to be made of champagne. And somehow, going to, or even thinking of, Shakespeare and Co. made it all come back.
A pleasurable fifteen minutes later, she took up her little pile of books and started to make her way to the cashier, who was enthroned in book-lined splendour opposite the doors. As Rolanda paused to look at another crime novel, she noticed a woman standing with her back to her, browsing the 'Classics' section. She was slender, with somewhat severely piled-up hair, but a very elegant coat and lovely shoes, Rolanda noticed. Not too high heeled, but beautiful. And those ankles... and legs... oh, Merlin. Thank heaven for Muggle clothes and Parisian elegance.
And for the human ability to daydream.
Just look at those ankles … one could caress them … for a very long time, and then, slowly, tantalizingly, move up … and up … Alas, the days of frenzied balls, where people did just that, were over. It had been, more or less, Nini's opening gambit. Rolanda's arm, not her ankle, though – Quidditch pros were best described as 'sturdy'.
Is it Paris, Rolanda thought, or the memories of those Roaring Twenties, or this shop... or those legs? Face it, Hooch, if there was such a thing as a horizontal surface in here, you'd want to shag her right through it. She grinned. Well, a girl could dream. Now let's imagine that she turns around and ...
The woman in the elegant coat finally selected a book, turned around, and nearly made Rolanda choke. Minerva McGonagall!
Prim, proper, stern, impossibly duty-bound Professor McGonagall.
Ye gods. What had she been thinking? Could one see it in her face? Was Minerva a Legilimens? Was this a constructive thought? Damage control, Hooch, now.
Briefly, she considered the idea that Minerva might welcome the idea of - well, not of shagging in that exceedingly cramped bookshop, but of a closer relationship. After all, they knew each other's preferences, as they knew the preferences of all their colleagues on the small staff of Hogwarts. The fact remained that this was Deputy Headmistress McGonagall. Her boss. It might make working relationships awfully strained if Minerva didn't want ... And how many jobs were there where a woman was paid - handsomely - to fly a broom? Once she was past the professional players' sell-by date?
"Hello, Minerva," she managed, sounding only slightly out of breath. "I didn't know you were in Paris, too. What brings you here?"
"Oh, this and that," Minerva answered. She was intentionally vague, Rolanda realised. Order business, then, most likely.
"I had to settle some things with Beauxbatons," Minerva continued, "and decided to spend a bit of time in Paris."
"Yes, too good an opportunity to miss," Rolanda answered. "How long do you plan to stay?" With relief she noticed that she was, in fact, managing a decent colleague-to-colleague conversation. Even her body began to realise that it wasn't about to get very lucky.
"Oh, a few hours, I thought," Minerva replied. Quickly, Rolanda focused on the conversation again. A few hours of what? Shopping? Bloody hell, Minerva actually meant that her entire stay in Paris was just a few hours. Then what was going on in the Order?
"Why's that? So short, I mean? Is it … no, sorry, shouldn't ask, of course." Rolanda looked contrite.
"Oh, it's not Order business, not all of it. But there's quite a bit of admin work; we really need to organise things properly now. And then there's the winding up of the tournament, the preparations for next year, Cedric's parents, and..."
"And Dumbledore, what's he doing?" Rolanda asked, feeling suddenly fiercely protective. Crazy, of course. Minerva definitely didn't need protecting. Arguably not even from Dumbledore – his reflexes were slowing down.
"Travelling, mostly. Talking. Making useful contacts." The last bit almost seemed an afterthought. As if Minerva realised the difference between his workload and hers and thought it disloyal to continue along those lines. How much of that insane workload is actually ordered by Dumbledore, Rolanda wondered, and how much do you take upon you, simply because you see that it needs doing? Perhaps the one you should be protected from is yourself.
"Come on," she heard herself say. "Take a day off. Let's go out together." She stared at the book in Minerva's hands. A cheap pocket edition, with a picture of a Muggle film she had watched recently. A Room with a View, it was called.
"Let's have an adventure," she added, remembering a line from the film. When she saw Minerva's exquisitely arched eyebrow, she realised just what she had said. The Order, You-Know-Who's return, a student who had died during the Tournament... Last thing Min needed was another adventure. "A fun adventure," she said hastily.
"A... fun... adventure?" Minerva somehow managed stretch the word fun into several syllables, thus classifying it in the same category as 'a laid-back elf', 'a giggling Snape', or even 'a lovely chat with the Dark Lord'.
"Fun," Rolanda stated firmly. She grabbed Minerva's book, paid for it along with her own purchases, and pushed her out on the pavement before either of them had time to have second thoughts.
"You're just going to have a pleasant day. See it as an unexpected outing," she grinned.
"An unexpected... outing?"
When she saw Minerva smile almost flirtatiously, she realised just what she had said. Dammit, Hooch, that's the second time in five minutes. Great way with words you have today.
"Make of that what you want," she added, almost gruffly.
"I will!" Minerva replied fervently. "Have a day off, I mean," she added hastily.
They looked at the books on the pavement at the traffic, at the cherry trees opposite the bookshop, and at the Notre-Dame, almost golden in the warm sunlight. Then, when it became unavoidable, at each other. Suddenly, they both laughed.
"Right," Rolanda said. "Let's stroll around for a bit. Do some Muggle window-shopping. Did you buy those shoes here, by the way?"
"Oh, no. Well, sort of. I mean … I never really buy Muggle clothes. I just get one of their fashion magazines, look what sort of thing they're wearing, and then I Transfigure my own things."
"You Transfigure … you mean you made that yourself? And that coat? Merlin's balls, you could put Madam Malkin out of business anytime!"
Minerva smiled at the compliment. "Well, I do enjoy dressing up. But in our world – one's never really off duty."
"And in Muggle clothes you can be as dashing as you like," Rolanda nodded, understanding. "You're right, of course. Come on, let's go towards the Boul'Mich. And tell me, how did you find out about Shakespeare and Co.?"
A/N As usual, will post on Sundays