22.30 PM, St Hogarts, Miss McGonagall's private rooms
Minerva McGonagall wriggled her toes with relish. However comfortable one's shoes, after Half Term Day there was nothing quite like taking them off and being truly comfortable. With a glass of whisky on the side-table, a small fire in the grate, for the evenings were still chilly, and utter, blessed silence surrounding her.

The day had been a success. The demonstrations had gone smoothly; all students had returned safely; the parents had clearly enjoyed themselves. And as far as anyone knew, the little contretemps with Longbottom and Lord Malfoy had been just that – a brief, unimportant episode.

For Minerva, however …

She curled up in her chair, took a sip from her whisky, and closed her eyes, the better to visualise the moment when Narcissa had coolly turned her back on her and had ordered, "Unzip me."

And she wasn't even embarrassed to ask that kind of service of a virtual stranger? But then she had a maid, and was in the habit of undressing in front of another woman. And that dress was amazingly unpractical, with a long zipper that no woman could manage on her own. Minerva had once read a household tip on getting into such dresses for women who lived alone: attach a piece of string to the zip, throw it over your shoulder, and slowly pull up the zipper. But how do you get out again, she had thought and, the best tip of all would be not to buy anything that silly.

Minerva ought to be helpful, since it was one of her students who had caused the accident. What she was, however, was furious. That woman treated her as a servant – intentionally. To wind her up. In which she succeeded admirably.

What was more, the way she had walked in that wet, clinging dress, and the way she stood there, in front of Minerva's mirror, holding her arms so that the dress stretched over her breasts – why, she was positively preening. Did she show off her body to humiliate Minerva? To make her feel ugly and inferior? There was just a hint of a smile around Narcissa's lips. Defiant?

Well, there was an answer to that. An answer that would unsettle Her Ladyship, and if it unsettled her to the point of protesting, she, Minerva, could always claim that she had not trained as a lady's maid and had merely been clumsy.

With slow, lingering movements she undid the long zipper ("I was just careful not to ruin the beautiful dress"), while her nails trailed over Lady Malfoy's spine. In a meaningful way. And Lady Malfoy couldn't help curling into the touch, any more than she could help the sudden intake of breath.

Good. That showed who was in charge, then. Of course, Narcissa was spirited enough not to give in at once. She merely let the dress drop at her feet, stepped out of it, and said, "My bra and knickers are soaked, too. I hope yours fit."

A calculated insult, that. Narcissa had beautiful, generous breasts. Throughout the centuries she could have been a model for painters and sculptors. Minerva's were considerably smaller. True, some people considered them beautiful, too. Unconventional people, with an eye for unconventional beauty. As Gussie had said once, so very long ago, before she became Gussie Longbottom, "They're just the right size – plenty of fun, and no nuisance during Lacrosse." Or, as Amelia still put it, "a lovely handful."

She stared disdainfully at Narcissa and replied, "We'll dry them. It won't take long."

When she returned from the bathroom – a hair dryer would dry those flimsy bits of lace in minutes – Narcissa still stood where she had left her, facing the mirror. "You'll have to help me take them off, since I obviously don't have my maid with me," the woman said.


That settled it.

The girl was in for a proper correction. Clearly, her own former Head Girl had been sadly remiss in her duties. Minerva, who had been a Head Girl herself, would have set an Annoying Thing like Narcissa right in no time. During her time as Head Girl she had counselled, spoken firmly to, and on two occasions spanked an Obnoxious Thing. At the time, she and Gussie, her fellow Head Girl and very close friend, had been deeply aware of their responsibilities and had pondered each action for hours, both before and after execution. Had they been right? Had they been just? And above all, had they been acting in the girl's best interest, not for their own gratification? But at the time even the most ruthless self-scrutiny had not revealed any hidden desires. For ghastly Marigold Abercrombie? For that drip of a Trelawney? Certainly not. Any spanking-for-pleasure had been strictly beween the two of them.

This, however, was different. They were both adults, the Countess of Malfoy and herself. There was no hierarchy. There was simply a woman who asked to be corrected – and another woman who took up the gauntlet.

"That's quite enough," she said, in a voice that had already been strong in those far-off Head Girl days, but that had reached full, petrifying perfection with decades of teaching.

"Take off those things." And, when the other didn't move at once, "Now."

And the Countess of Malfoy, the beautiful, the gracious, the much-admired Countess of Malfoy obeyed, and she obeyed with a little sigh, with a tension of abdominal muscles that spoke of eager anticipation.

"You've behaved abominably," Minerva said as Narcissa slipped out of her bras and knickers. "What happened at the pool was an accident. You really should learn to be a good sport, or you won't have any friends at all. So we'll have to teach you a lesson – and since this might count, technically, as a girls' dormitory (for a given definition of 'girl'), you seem to be in the right place for instruction. Your own Head Girl should have done this a long time ago. Let's hope it's not too late."

With a curt nod she indicated the bed, and Narcissa, blushing prettily, but not protesting, knelt in front of it and bent over. Minerva took up her hairbrush and carefully administered five of the exact degree of juiciness that caused mild pain and a lovely blush on those cheeks. As well as a lovely glow elsewhere – when she was finished, Narcissa did whisper "please". Minerva hadn't lost her touch, then – Gussie would be proud to hear it. Or perhaps not, after all that had happened.

Narcissa, however, was everything one could desire in a penitent girl. Quick to obey, eager to spread her legs. Begged for Minerva to touch her, for Minerva's fingers inside her. In a most becoming manner, too. And when she was allowed to please Minerva, she did so with flattering enthusiasm. And surprising skill.

As the last embers of the fire died in the grate and the now empty glass of whisky sat forgotten on the side table, Minerva visualised every movement, every sound, every single gesture.

She smiled.

Oh yes. It had been a most satisfying Half-Term Day. Mostsatisfying, indeed.

22.30 PM, Malfoy Manor
Narcissa stared into her mirror as she slowly rubbed cold cream unto her face. Draco had noticed her absent-mindedness – but did it matter? No, of course not. If he thought about it at all, he'd simply attribute it to the events of the day. Lucius's drop in the pool. His rage. Borrowing a dress from the Deputy Headmistress. But he wouldn't think further about it – that naughty boy had had at least three glasses of wine. She had noticed, of course, but he had been so clever with the pouring she just couldn't reprimand him.

And after all, what was wrong with a little indulgence, now and then?

She herself, when Miss McGonagall had taken her to her rooms to change, had tried to get the Head Mistress in stern, reprimanding teacher mode. Apolline would have loved the story. But Miss McGonagall had just been boringly polite. And then …

No sternness? But Miss McGonagall was every inch the teacher of Narcissa's fantasies. Austere, prim, never showing emotion. Unless …

That was it! It wasn't sternness that made the Head Mistress act the way she did. What was going on, what had to be the cause, was quite simply that Miss McGonagall had the most frightful crush on her.

Of course! It all made sense, once one thought about it. An unlovely, prim girl. Intellectual. Bookish. Not popular among her class mates, Miss McGonagall had concentrated on academic achievement. Had had crushes on teachers, one presumed, but had firmly told herself she admired their beautiful minds. Ha!

University, after that. The same pattern. Whatever satisfaction the poor thing got came from academic achievement. And then she had taken up a post at a boarding school. Not exactly an environment that encouraged a love-life. She had carved out a career. Probably spent her leisure hours reading improving books. Or going on little cultural outings with teacher friends. Museums, certainly. Lectures. Country houses? To gaze at a life-style she could only dream of? To fancy herself Lady of the Manor, while waxing lyrical on the artistic value of furniture and paintings?

And then she had met Narcissa Malfoy, and had fallen like a ton of bricks for all the beauty and elegance she'd never have. And Narcissa had been kind to her – of course she had been kind, she was kind to everyone, which was why she was so universally loved. So the poor thing had looked forward with trembling heart to Half-Term Day, and didn't know what to do now that she was in the unexpected – and intimate – presence of her goddess.

And naturally, she was as repressed as hell. No sexual experience whatsoever. Or perhaps she had been with a boy once – a fellow student, probably, as unwanted and insecure as she was herself –, and had found it disappointing. All the more reason for focussing on the academic life; it had never occurred to Miss McGonagall that she might actually prefer women. Had never realised what it felt like to enjoy.

What Miss McGonagall needed, craved, wanted with her whole, dried-up spinster's heart, was a woman who would show her the way. Only, she didn't realise it at all, poor thing. She just felt horribly embarrassed at her own feelings. Just like that lovely fourth-former who had had such a crush on her, way back when. The girl had been adorably shy in the beginning, and then so very eager to please. Miss McGonagall felt exactly the same. Hence the stern, in-control look. It was a mask.

Narcissa would make her drop it.

It all made perfect sense, now.

So she ordered the woman to unzip her. She had ordered her much more sharply than she ever ordered her maid. But what did a simple schoolmarm know about the way one addressed one's servants?

Oh, but it was exciting, this little game! Here was a glorious, new scenario to act out with Apolline. Narcissa prepared herself to remember every little detail.

There – Miss McGonagall's hands touching her, slowly lowering the zipper. So very slowly. With nails trailing down her spine in the most exquisite fashion – just this side of painful. Narcissa couldn't help curling her back, any more than she could help the sudden intake of breath.

Did this mean that Miss McGonagall felt the same thing she did? Nonsense. The woman had just been careful, so as not to ruin the dress. And she was completely unaware of the effect she had on Narcissa. Miss McGonagall had no idea whatsoever of what this half-caress half-scratch felt like. How could she possibly know?

Narcissa dropped her dress and turned around. Miss McGonagall kept an admirable poker face; she had to give her that. But there had been a moment of surprise, when the teacher's eyes had looked considerably below Narcissa's face. Lovely.

"My underwear is soaked, too," Narcissa said calmly. "It must be dried."

"That, I think, will not be too difficult."

Was that a look of disapproval, or was there a glint of arousal? Of meeting a challenge?

"A hair dryer will do the trick in minutes."

Yes, it was a look of disapproval. What would a schoolmarm wear? Something sensible, of white cotton, one presumed. Not embroidered lace that could, indeed, be dried very quickly, as both Apolline and Narcissa had found out on various occasions.

The poor thing left to fetch a hair dryer, and upon her return Narcissa turned toward her and calmly, slowly, tantalizingly, she removed her bra and stepped out of her knickers, all the while looking her straight in the eyes.

"Now undress yourself," Narcissa ordered her. My, but that was a lovely blush! As maidenly as one could hope for. "You know you want to," she added.

And with trembling hands, Miss McGonagall undid the buttons of that perfectly respectable, perfectly boring suit of hers.

Narcissa smiled at her mirrored image. With automatic gestures, she removed the cold cream, applied moisturizer, and turned off the mirror's lights. Quickly, she made her way to the bed and slipped under the duvet. Too bad there were no hands-above-the-duvet rules in adult life. Rules added that little je ne sais quoi to the experience.

Narcissa closed her eyes and carefully projected images on the darkness. The Head Mistress, lying on the bed. Narcissa's own voice, saying "spread your legs for me," and "you like this; you know you do," and, finally, "do you want more? Do you want it harder? Ask for it!"

And since Miss McGonagall was so very prim and proper, everything was new to her, and there were delightful moans of "What … what are you doing? You can't … you mustn't … it's too much … I can't … oh … oh yes!"

All in all, it had been a delightful Half-Term Day. Narcissa would enjoy those images – well and truly enjoy them – for months to come. And come. And come. (Sometimes –not often, true – but sometimes, Apolline was wrong. The English language had much to recommend itself.)

22.45 PM, St Hogarts, 5th Form Dormitory
The Honourable Draco Malfoy smiled contentedly as he sorted the day's profits into neat piles. A tenner from his father – a guilt payment for not taking him out to dinner. Another one for sighing how horrible it was to be at the kind of school that admitted such bloody stupid oafs. That line seemed to work a treat. He would use it more often.

And a fiver. That was his mother's first offering, "to make up for missing Daddy at dinner." Then he had mentioned how he had wanted to ask Dad for some extra money that he really needed, because … well … he might want to buy something for … The mixture of reluctance and stumbling sentences had worked beautifully. Mum had remembered that her own birthday was only two weeks away. Of course Draco wanted to get her a present, and of course he had planned to ask his father. She had asked whether it was one of his friends' birthdays – to make him feel he hadn't given the show away. Draco had played along and netted a tenner.

Then Mum had taken him to a very fancy restaurant. During a trip to the loo, he had noticed the luxury of the men's room, which suggested similar trappings for the ladies'. Draco had nipped in, and true enough, there were the bottles of scent. He had nicked the fullest one. With a little bit of water and some truly elegant wrapping paper – the one thing he never economised on; one or two sheets of moiré paper went a long way towards delighted acceptance of the cheapest of gifts – he'd be all set for the birthday, at a minimum outlay.

The dinner had been delicious, and Mum had offered him one glass of wine, "to celebrate this lovely dinner together." And then she had been so distracted that he got his full share of the bottle.

It had been quite odd, really. Mum had barely listened to what he was telling her, had completely missed that ridiculous woman in the red-and-violet hat. Mum, who always noticed what others were wearing and who could be screamingly funny about it. But tonight she had just stared into space, with a kind of little, half-hidden smile.

"You're not hearing a word I say; what are you thinking of?" he had asked. And she had told him that it was nothing, nothing at all. He wondered what it was, then. Definitely not nothing. 'Nothing' didn't result in another guilt-induced fiver. Would she really be that upset about Dad's accident? About having to wear Miss McGonagall's dress? She had made no fuss at all at the pool, and she had been back in no time, changed, dry, and smiling. But after that, the absent-mindedness had started.

Had she had a quarrel with old McG, then? No – in that case she wouldn't smile. Mum disliked quarrels.

Perhaps they had bonded and made jokes together while Mum was changing. Yeah. As if. His beautiful, sophisticated, elegant mother and stern old McG. That would be the day.

Besides, they hadn't had time for it. Mum had been gone for ten minutes, max. Just the time to change. No, whatever made her absent-minded, it hadn't happened then.

Draco gathered the two piles and did his sums. The grand total was … 40 pounds. Not bad. Not bad at all. In fact, the best Half-Term Day ever.

23.00 PM, St Hogarts School
Argus Filch smiled as he thought of the Weasley Twins. That were Half-Term Day for you. A day on which you smiled at them dratted twins. Mr Weasley, an Old Hoggywartian himself, had greeted Argus most enthusiastically. Had commiserated with him on being saddled with that pack of ruffians – said he didn't know how Mr Filch did it; the kids drove them mad during the holidays and that was only six weeks.

And then he had told his children a story about how he, Arthur Weasley, had taken their mum out for a night walk, and how Mr Pringle, Argus's predecessor, had caught them. Not a man to trifle with, Mr Pringle, said Mr Weasley. And Fred had said that the same thing were true of Mr Filch. "Can hear us walk through stone walls," George had added.

It were good to know that Mr Pringle were still remembered. And it were good to know that one day, when Argus Filch had long gone to his maker, there would be stories about him, too. About how Argus Filch could hear you through stone walls and weren't a man to be trifled with, neither.

Argus nodded to himself. Aye, they would have plenty of stories to tell. But if the walls could speak … aye, if the walls could speak, they could tell different stories. Stories that were a secret between him and St Hogwarts, like.

Stories such as how Mr Filch had stood in the mop cupboard, on the late evening of one Half-Term Day, and had listened to the footsteps and whispers of students on a kitchen raid. Had heard them through stone walls, he had.

And how he had stayed in his cupboard and had given Free Passage to the raiders.

On account of them raiders having Neville Longbottom with them. Who had been man enough to shove Lord Muck into the lake for insulting his Nan. Oh, he had heard Lord Muck all right. Comparing Mrs Longbottom to a char lady. An Old Hogwarts family! It were even worse than Lord Muck staring right through him.

But then there had been the scene at the pool. And things had been as plain as pike-staff. Longbottom, pretending to avoid Creevey, pretending to stumble, and surely, determined-like, shoving Lord M. into the pool.

Argus Filch weren't to be trifled with, but he were a just man. A man as gives another man his due. Longbottom deserved a Kitchen Raid.

The coast was clear, at last, and Argus Filch slipped out of the mop cupboard and finished his final round of the building.

Half-Term Day was over.