A/N Originally written for the HP_SSC fest. SSC being Safe, Consensual, and something starting with S I've forgotten. So yes, some sort of kink was mandatory, and this fic contains consensual bondage.
Tetleybag consented to beta, and because of that it's a much better tale.
Muriel Weasley carefully smoothed the soft satin, then folded the bonds loosely so as not to leave ugly creases. She straightened her back and picked them up from the bed. Now where … briefly, she hesitated. Then she put them into the top drawer of her bed table. There was a time and a place for everything. And at this particular time, the place was not on top of the bed table. Not yet.
A time and a place for everything – it had been one of Robert's favourite sayings. And over the years, she had come to agree with her late husband; though usually in contexts that would have left him speechless with indignation, had she ever shared her thoughts.
She looked around the bedroom, mechanically smoothing a few wrinkles in the quilt that covered the bed. Her marital bed it had been, and so deliciously comfortable that she'd never considered getting a new one.
A time and a place …
For Robert, the time had been Saturday evening and the place that very bed. Like clockwork. As a young bride, Muriel had attempted, once or twice, to bring a tiny bit of romance, a hint of spontaneity to their sex life – or to making love, as she'd still called it then. The sofa in the living room. (There's a place for everything, my dear, and a time. What if the elves …) Wednesday evening. (You know I have important meetings tomorrow. There's a time …) In the end, she had simply, and, above all, silently agreed. Yes, dear Robert, there is a time and a place for everything, and a truly productive and well-focussed moment to draft a mental to-do-list for the next week is during …
She smiled. Tonight would be a time and a place for sex. Funny, that was. When she had learned to be outspoken enough to call it sex, there had finally been a reason to say making love.
Dear, wonderful, witty, brazen Griselda.
She had met her through Robert's work. "A charming and most helpful girl," he had first called her, "a bit older than you, I think." And I'm a woman, she had thought, and the mother of your children. But there was a time and a place for everything – except for comments like that.
"That hard-working young teacher at Hogwarts," was what he called Griselda next. But by the time Muriel first met her, at some Ministry Christmas do, she had become "that rather outspoken Marchbanks woman the Undersecretary seems to think so highly of – I can't see why. All those changes she wants to make to the exams and the curriculum! Bold, she is. Brazen."
As far as Muriel was concerned, praise could go no higher. And they had hit it off just fine during that evening.
Yet, at first, she had mostly been jealous. Griselda had done what she should have done herself: she had carved out a career. Muriel had by then discovered that spending long days in the presence of two small persons who were incapable of stringing a sentence together and half the time didn't manage the word potty in a timely manner was not how she wanted to live her life. She loved her children dearly. They were her pride and joy. She would have enjoyed seeing them grow up, being involved in schoolwork and education, and playing with them in the evenings, weekends, and holidays. In short, she would have made a great father.
Muriel had always comforted herself with two thoughts: first, that it was impossible for women to have a real career, a real position of power; second, that she wanted children more. Griselda had been the living proof that her first thought was a lie. If Muriel didn't have a career, and Griselda did, then Muriel simply didn't have what it took. A painful idea.
And yes, she had wanted children. In those days, she had often thought that if she'd met one of those Muggle-tale "faeries" who offered her a different life, with a splendid career but with the provision that in that life her children wouldn't exist, she would have chosen her own life all over again. She would have. Really.
It was Griselda who had taught her to say that 'no' out loud, with only a minimal amount of guilt. "And that's what I'd call a normal amount of guilt for any parent," Griselda had added. "Every parent feels at some point that he or she should have been more available or less interfering ... less permissive or more interested, or less judgemental …
"All you can do, my dear, (and it's precisely what you did do) is try to be as good a parent as possible. I'm quite sure that you've only ever done what you thought was best for those boys."
Well, that, at least, had been true enough. And the boys had done just fine – each in his own way. Good boys, they were. And in a way, they had brought her and Griselda together. A year after that first meeting, it had been. At the next Ministry Christmas do. Griselda had sidled up to her at the buffet table.
"So your boys are both at Hogwarts now? That is, I don't think they have younger siblings?" she had asked. That was true, and Muriel had relished the blessed alone-time this brought her. Was still relishing it. But more and more, she had realised that with quite so many empty hours in the day, life was boring.
"Yes," she had replied, feeling a bit disappointed. Griselda, surely, might have seen her as Muriel, not as The-Mother-Of?
"Good. I've a job for you. Sort of. The thing is, they need a new member on the Hogwarts Board of Governors. And Dumbledore and I – you know Dumbledore?"
"Yes, the boys are in Gryffindor – he's the Head of House, isn't he?"
"Quite. Brilliant chap. I was present at his O.W.L.'s. Utterly brilliant. High-flyer. Well, we both feel that some things should change – and we could do with a bit of support on the Board. You'd do a good job, I dare say."
"Well … It's very kind, but I'm not sure …," That was not what she wanted to say, Muriel had realised. It was what Robert wanted her to say. There was a place for women, in Robert's mind. It was at home.
"Actually, I'd love it."
"You think Robert could be a bit of a problem?"
Griselda's directness had taken her breath away.
"Let me handle that. Or rather, let Albus deal with it. He's over there."
Muriel had followed Griselda's nod. Dear Henri, she thought. That boy should become a writer. His description of Professor Dumbledore in last week's letter home had been spot-on. He looks like the decoration on a girl's birthday cake, Henri had written. All sparkling and all the wrong colours. No chap would want to wear it. But he's still a good teacher. Strict, but not so that you mind. Well, mostly we don't mind. It's a bit of a nuisance, sometimes. A girl's birthday cake – yes. And somehow, though for the life of her she couldn't have said why, Henri was right about the natural authority as well.
Griselda had moved over to Dumbledore. Later during that evening, Dumbledore had talked earnestly – but with an occasional twinkle in his eyes – to Robert. Back at home, Robert had said rather pompously that there might be changes ahead. Professor Dumbledore had asked him – and asking him first was a very proper way of doing things – for his permission to approach Muriel for a place on the Board of Governors.
"And of course, I do not mind in the least. Truly womanly work, it is. They could do with a woman's touch. A woman's understanding of children – so natural. And we should take an interest in Hogwarts, now that the boys are there. It's the duty of every Pureblood Wizard and Witch …," Robert had gone into oratory mode. Muriel had barely been able to contain herself. That Professor Dumbledore – a high-flyer, indeed. Someone who could push Robert's every button like that …
And she had joined the Board. Enjoyed the work thoroughly, frustrating though it sometimes was to deal with all those conservative, elderly men. Struck up a friendship with Griselda, which had led first to informal chats during breaks, then to chats after the meetings, then to lunches. And to some confidences, but Griselda had been rather reticent on her private life. Muriel, who had by then realised that a professional woman was not necessarily a prim, proper, and virginal spinster, had been downright curious. Finally, she had gone for the straightforward approach and had asked Griselda whether there was … someone significant. Griselda liked straightforward, after all. But, as Muriel had found out that afternoon, it was the only straight thing she liked. Not that they'd used that term, way back when. 'Unnatural tendencies' was how it was referred to, and "I prefer women, but there isn't anyone right now," was what Griselda had said, with an outward composure only belied by the unnatural whiteness of her knuckles as she held her glass.
Muriel had responded with broadmindedness, since broadmindedness was clearly the correct answer if she wanted to keep their friendship intact. After all, it was an act of enormous trust for Griselda to talk about her … inclinations. Later, at home, she had been surprised at her own discomfort. It had taken weeks of mind-searching and painful honesty to reach an answer. She hadn't been upset at the idea that Griselda might be interested in her. She had been upset at the idea that Griselda might not be – make that was not – interested in her. Or she, Muriel, would have noticed, wouldn't she?
How wrong she had been.
In Griselda's experienced hands, she had learned about making love. And about sex. She had learned to know her own body and Griselda's. She had learned to give and to take pleasure. She had learned that an unnatural, non-maternal woman like herself could still be more than acceptable to others. In the end, she had learned to accept herself.
The great clock in the hall managed an asthmatic six strokes. Muriel looked up in surprise. Enough nostalgia, she decided. Time to prepare dinner. A very light dinner. Minerva would come at around seven. Her Owl had been as controlled as ever, but she, Muriel, knew how to read between the lines. Stressed, Minerva was.
The last year's stress, fear, bleak despair, and red-hot rage had all been common emotions. But since a week, it was over. You-Know-Who was gone. By now, everyone understood that he was truly gone. Everyone understood – well, not understood; it was beyond comprehension. But everyone knew about The Boy Who Lived. The whole wizarding world had partied and danced and drunk away the stress. Poor old Dedalus had even Spelled it away – what part of "Secrecy" was it he didn't understand? But in the general relaxation, even he'd got off without a Wizengamot hearing. Yet amidst all the revelry and relaxation, Minerva was stressed.
What she'd need was a drink first. Then, a calm, light dinner, during which she could talk. Min needed to get the cause of that surprising stress out of her system. After dinner, coffee. And perhaps – it would depend on how clear-headed Minerva still was, for Muriel had no use for a befuddled partner, not this evening – a glass of Ogden's Old. Then she would make her suggestion. Muriel was utterly convinced that tonight was the time and place. That it was what Minerva wanted. What she needed.
She went to the kitchen and started preparations. Slowly, by hand. She wanted the time to think. Minerva. So unexpected, it had been. And now it felt so logical, natural even.
She had been alone for quite some time after Griselda. And Robert.
Robert had been the first – a heart attack, completely unexpected. Griselda had been marvellous. Had kept her distance during the first, hectic week. After that, she'd been there. Just there. A companion for small talk, for silence. And, finally, for the things Muriel needed to say.
"I thought I'd grieve," she had told Griselda. "I ought to. I do miss him – at the oddest moments. This morning, when I wanted to put on an old robe. Whenever I wore that, he said how beautiful it made me look; how lucky he was. And he really meant it. I missed him like hell, just because of seeing that robe.
"And yet, what I feel most right now isn't grief. It's … space." She had stretched out her arms to make the point. "Such space, all around me. No snatched moments of alone-time. Just endless space … room … silence. A calm silence. And yet there should be grief. He was a good, loving husband. A great father. I failed him, far more than he ever failed me. And he never suspected, never stopped loving me. He deserves grief."
Griselda had held her, wordlessly, and she had felt utterly accepted.
It had been almost a year before Griselda had mentioned living together. And when she did, Muriel had realised, suddenly and piercingly, that she didn't want to live with anyone any more. They had tried, oh, how they had tried. To find a workable compromise. To get back the joy there once was. In the end, it hadn't worked out. Griselda had left.
There had been grief then. Deep grief. Muriel had regretted the pain she'd caused Griselda, had missed her company, her lovemaking, and her wit. Had missed belonging with someone. But never, not for a moment, had she truly regretted her decision to live alone.
When Griselda had finally met someone else, Muriel had come as close to being happy for her as was possible. And she had tried very hard to be glad for Augusta, too – Merlin knew that woman deserved a bit of happiness, as much as, or even more than Griselda.
And then, years later, she'd noticed Minerva McGonagall. Really noticed her, not just as a capable Deputy, an excellent sparring partner in meetings, and fun company. One afternoon, during a dull reading of minutes, she had noticed her in a very physical way. Dream on, she had thought. Years younger than you, and she'll want … what Griselda wanted. Everyone does – except you.
Wrong again. About the age difference, to begin with. It was still a sensitive point with Muriel, but "I know what I want," Minerva had said. "I know your age. I know you crave solitude. So do I. But … I still … I do want …,"
Somewhere during that speech – one of the rare ones which had lacked Minerva's usual, scholarly precision - hands had replaced words. And the rest, as they say, is history, Muriel thought, as she finished her preparations.
A/N Next week Sunday the next chapter.