Chapter 2

- / - / -

Tuesday, 16 August 1995, 3:48

A scurry glimpsed out of the corner of his eye brought Moody's attention firmly back to his surveillance work. He concentrated...yes, there it was again, in the basement kitchen.

He quartered off the kitchen in his mind and scanned each quadrant methodically. Ah...mice. Or what appeared to be mice. But of course they might not be what they seemed. He wasn't about to take any chances: Sirius Black and his cronies wouldn't be the only unregistered animagi who ever existed.

But after a moment, even Moody had to admit that the chances of there being three unregistered mouse animagi, all of which had sneaked into the basement of Grimmauld Place at the same time, were slim.

Damn vermin. Merlin, hadn't Black ever heard of anti-rodent charms? What the hell did he do all day? Or why wasn't that Honoria girl's half-Kneazle taking care of the things? This little mouse problem had cost Moody five minutes, which was time that he could have spent back in bed with Minerva.

He shook his head slowly, still marvelling at the very idea. When he'd said the word "invitation" to her earlier in the evening, he'd been serious. He'd meant it as a genuine proposition, and he'd been fairly certain she would hear it as such. Whether she'd take him up on it, though...aye, well, that was the question.

They'd soon ended their conversation, and he'd walked with her back to the entry hall. Black emerged from some hidey-hole of his own to let her out and to reset the wards, and by the studious way he'd avoided looking at either of them, Moody was fairly certain he'd heard some of the shouting.

Well, who cared? It wasn't as if the git had never heard angry yelling before, not with that battle-axe of a portrait hanging on the wall. And if he didn't already know that his elders had personal lives, then it was high time he found out.

"Black," Moody had said, nodding "goodnight" to him and turning towards the staircase. "Min."

He hadn't looked back at her as he began his long clump up to his room. He'd made his offer. She'd have understood. It was just a matter of waiting to see what she decided.

And wait he had - for all of about three minutes.

Moody looked at Minerva now, through the wall. She'd turned over in bed and was facing him, her hair spread around her in black profusion. He was rather disappointed to see that her arms were crossed over her chest; he wouldn't have minded another look at her lovely breasts. Moody was an unabashed tits man and always had been.

Well, he'd have another chance. There were still a few hours left of this night, after all. Just the attics to scan now, and then he'd be ready to climb in beside her once more.

He didn't think she'd be opposed to another round of hide-the-sausage with him; she'd been quick enough to join him in the first place.

He cast his mind back to what had happened just a few hours earlier. After he'd left Min in the entry hall and gone to his room, he'd barely shut the door behind him before she appeared, startling the hell out of him. He'd heard the crack of apparition and turned around at once, his wand out and pointed...

- / - / -

Monday, 15 August 1995, 22:27

...and there was Minerva, her gaze fastened sardonically on the wand, as if it were a student's transfiguration experiment gone wrong.

"Bloody hell, Minerva! How did you get in here?"

"Sirius didn't stay to actually watch me leave. So I Apparated back in before he got the wards reset."

Moody cursed under his breath. He'd give Black a right bollocking next time he saw him, for a beginner's balls-up like that. "What's the tattoo on my arse?" he demanded of Minerva.

"That's your identity question?"

"What is tattooed on my arse?"

"An Auror staff."

"Fine." He lowered the wand. "And now what the sweet F-A are you doing here?"

She raised an eyebrow and let the silence ride until she saw his eyelid flicker. Damn her. After all these years, she could still stare him down, and he even had a magic eye. "I was under the impression that you had invited me," she snapped.

"I didn't expect you tonight, for god's sake! I reckoned you'd want to think it over."

"Obviously I've already thought it over, Alastor, or I wouldn't be standing in your bedroom. But it seems I misunderstood you. So if you'll lift the wards again, I'll be going."

"Not so fast," he growled. "I was just a little surprised to see you this soon, that's all. Do you have to be so prickly?"

"Pot, cauldron, black," she countered.

Moody felt himself start to grin. "We're in the same room for two minutes, and you're fighting with me already. Like old times, isn't it, Min?"

Her glare faded, and she slowly smiled back. "Very old times, I'm afraid. And it's you doing the fighting, not I."

Then she spoke seriously. "What is this all about, Alastor? What are we doing here? A week ago you didn't even want to see me. Tonight you were still angry, and rightfully so, I don't dispute that. So what happened? A few minutes' explanation from me is all it took to make things right between us?" Another smile, a wry one, flickered briefly across her sharp features. "Had I known how easily persuadable you were, I would have twisted you round my finger years ago."

Moody snorted. "Don't flatter yourself too much, lass. It's not just your silver Scottish tongue that's changed things. Ever since I got out of Crouch's trunk, I've been thinking."

She didn't make any jokes about this being an unusual occupation for him. She merely cocked her head under its tall hat and said, "About?"

"About things. About us - you and me. About the old days, the first war. Being in that trunk, Min...dammit, it's unsettled me, I have to admit it. But I tell you what: there's nothing like a few months in a trunk to sort your mind. To let you figure out some things, about where you've been and where you want to go and about what matters to you. Do you understand what I'm trying to say?"

He paused, debating whether to go on and then deciding that he might as well. "And then I came across something...well, here. Have a shifty."

He fumbled in his pocket and handed her the photograph he'd recently found. It was of the old Order of the Phoenix, all of them who had fought the first Voldemort war, the one that was supposed to end the Darkness once for all.

Minerva wasn't in the photo, though Moody couldn't remember why. Something had kept her at the school, no doubt. But the rest of them were there: the Longbottoms. The Prewetts. Dorcas Meadowes. Caradoc Dearborn.

Minerva stared at it and then at him, her expression unreadable.

"I...that is, well...I wondered..." Moody felt like a stammering idiot.

He hated to feel like a stammering idiot. And he'd never been good with words, anyway, so he just gripped her shoulders and kissed her, at first gently and then fiercely, his arms tight around her. He vaguely noticed that he'd knocked her hat off, but he didn't care.

After a startled moment, she kissed him back, and he would have been content to clutch her to him forever if she hadn't pulled away eventually and gasped, "This is very nice, Alastor, but so is breathing!"

Moody grinned and straightened, still holding her. "Will you stay with me tonight?"

Moonlight, far brighter than the one candle he'd lit, flooded in through the grimy window and silvered everything as she nodded. "I will."

"Why?" He raised his hand to forestall any kind of tart response. "It's a real question. I need to know."

He needed to know that she wasn't coming to him out of pity for a broken man, or as some form of Minerva-martyrdom, her payment for not having seen through Crouch. But he was damned if he'd tell her so; he wanted to hear what she'd say.

All her sharpness was gone, though, and the face that looked at him in the moonlight was the face of twenty years ago, the same face that had stared at him unblinkingly when he'd been the one who'd had to tell her that her husband of nearly two decades was missing in action.

Warnell Dearborn. He'd been a quiet man, Warnell, easy-going unless he felt an injustice was being done; then he was implacable.

It was his nephew, Caradoc, who was in the Order photograph; Caradoc had been among the earliest to join. Warnell hadn't been a member, though. He had disapproved of such "vigilantism," and Moody knew that Minerva's involvement had caused some friction between her and her husband.

But member or not, Warnell had staunchly and vocally opposed Voldemort, and had died for his trouble, he and his nephew together, on a rainy spring night when they had simply been going about their ordinary business. No bodies were ever found, just a Dark Mark in the sky above a hex-scarred copse of trees.

Dorcas had volunteered to break the news to her old friend Minerva, and Moody had gone with her. He hated that part of the job with a passion, but no Auror worth his piss would shirk it.

They'd told Minerva that Caradoc and Warnell were "missing," but Min had been in the Order too long not to know what "missing" meant when it came to being captured by DEs. "Missing" meant "dead" - and not in any quick or painless way.

There had been no tears then, no scenes. Just a white-faced acceptance.

It had been almost a year to the day later, after another ambush on the Order had left two Death Eaters dead by Minerva's own hand, that she and Moody had spent their first night together.

And now, twenty years on, it was that same white-faced Minerva who answered his question about why she had come to spend yet another night with him.

"Sometimes it seems as if there's nothing left," she said. "Nothing but war and loss and the deaths of more children we can't protect. And nothing for you and me but empty beds and old age. If we're lucky. I want to change that, Alastor. I want us to remember the good times we had. And I want us to have new good times, too, and not let any Barty Crouch or his Dark Lord steal them from us. That's why."

He didn't answer directly - what was there to say? - but he offered her one more chance to back out if she wanted to.

"You do know this place is crawling with your bloody students. Aren't you afraid they'll find out their Head of House has stopped in for a shag?"

"Why would they? Unless you're planning to scream my name in ecstasy and don't remember how to cast a silencing charm?"

Moody laughed aloud, the second time in a single night, and pointed his wand around the dingy room. "Muffliato firmo!" he said. "There. Now we can both scream our bloody heads off. And don't think I won't make you."

- / - / -

She undressed the way she always had, slowly and carefully; she knew he liked to watch. First she folded her green robes with Minerva-neatness onto the chair next to the bed. Then the under-robe, the thin white sheath she'd always favoured. Then the underwear. As usual, her lingerie was practical (as she was) and designed for comfort (as she definitely was not) but soon it, too, had joined the pile on the chair, and Minerva was ready for him.

She'd aged, of course, he could see that, but it didn't matter. So had he, and when he stepped behind her to slide his arms around her, her breasts fit his hands just as perfectly as they had always done, and he wanted her as much as ever.

They made it to his bed somehow, and he waved a few more candles alight. He wanted to see her, wanted to light the memories into his mind as clearly he could.

Minerva lay on her side next to him, her expression intent as she smoothed his ragged hair out his good eye. She must have taken her own hair down magically, because suddenly it was hanging long over her shoulders and brushing against his chin as she began to untie his stock.

She'd always enjoyed undressing him herself, and tonight she took her time as he pressed his lips to her neck, her shoulder, a swell of breast, whatever part of her he could reach, relishing all the sensations...

...until he felt his pants disappear, felt first the cool air on his cock and then Minerva's warm hand.

Suddenly, he felt awkward and exposed, acutely conscious of his scars and his damned wooden leg. The leg was in the way, but he didn't want to remove it...he didn't want Minerva to see his stump, lest she find him repulsive. Or worse, feel sorry for him. And without his leg, he couldn't really balance, couldn't fuck the way he wanted to.

Not that he could manage very well even with the leg, damn it all. But without it, he'd be near helpless, and he liked - he needed - to be on top. He wasn't comfortable on his back, revealing his weakness like a dog showing its belly.

He struggled to sit up. "Min,'ll have to...hell, I can't...I'm a goddamned cripple..."

"Shhhh..." she said, pressing him back gently. Then she was warm on top of him, her mouth covering his as she guided their bodies together, lowering herself onto him.

Her hair fell around them, closing out the world, and for an instant, Mad-Eye Moody felt - not safe (for only a fool believed that safety was even possible) - but something close to it.

- / - / -

Afterward, they had lain contentedly in one another's arms, Moody idly twisting a lock of Minerva's hair around his finger as she stroked his arm and shoulder.

Then he took a deep breath and girded his loins for a possible battle. The last thing he wanted to do was put Min's back up, but now that she'd ended up in his bed, there was something rather important that they needed to get out in the open.

"Can I ask you a personal question?" he said.

"Personal?" Minerva cast an eye over their entwined nakedness. "Well, I suppose now would be the time."

"Amelia Bones said she saw you in London last term with Gilver Macmillan."

"That's not a question."

"Damn it, Minerva," he snarled, grabbing her shoulders. "Don't play the teacher with me; I'm not in your fucking classroom."

"Just ask your damned question," she snarled back, wrenching free. They glared at each other, and Moody was reminded again of the many reasons they had parted all those years ago. Even he knew that there had to be more to a relationship than fucking and fighting, however enjoyable those activities were. He gave a long-suffering sigh.

"Are you getting back together with Macmillan?"

She answered quietly, and he could tell she was taking care to smooth any edge from her voice. "No. He did invite me for dinner, that's true. You know he's been abroad for several years, something to do with the Department of International Magical Cooperation, and he only recently returned. But we met only as friends, though I admit, when he owled me, I did wonder if perhaps he wanted more."

"You've been there before, Min." And you and Macmillan didn't work out, he thought, but didn't say.

"I've been here, too," she said, waving her hand at him and the rumpled bed. And we didn't work either, she didn't say, though he was sure she must have thought it.

"Aye, and that's why I need to know how 'here'" - he indicated himself and the bed in his turn - "fits in with Minerva and Gilver."

"As I believe I said, there is no 'Minerva and Gilver.' I didn't think it was a good idea. So there won't be a problem."

"Won't be a problem?" he flared. "Well, that's all right, then, isn't it? As long as I'm not a problem."

"You asked," she spat.

"Hmpf." She had him there, not that he was going to admit it. Best just to turn things back on her. "Right, then," he said. "Gilver's not a problem. Good. Glad that's sorted. And now do you think maybe you could stop talking about your legion of old lovers?"

Her eyes flashed for a moment, but then laugh lines replaced her frown as she chuckled. "I don't know what you mean, Alastor," she said. "I don't think you're all that old."

Moody gave that remark the snort it deserved, but inside, he relaxed. All was fair weather now. Well, for the moment.

He was surprised that her other liaisons could still be such a sore spot with him, so many years after he had accepted that he and Min would never last as a couple. He'd resigned himself to the fact that she'd moved on to other partners - not many, of course, Minerva being Minerva and not given to anything like promiscuity. But there had been one or two other men. She'd been extremely discreet, but he'd heard things.

Mostly because he had sought them out, true, but that was neither here nor there.

And he'd coped with it all. Had even been civil to that rotter Macmillan, who had never been good enough for Minerva, no matter how decent a chap Amelia claimed he was. Moody had smiled through gritted teeth whenever he ran into Macmillan at the Ministry and told himself he was happy for Min.

He had to admit, though, he'd been even happier when it became clear back then that she was finished with old Gilver. He was even more happy now that she was apparently still finished with him, dinner in London or no.

Because deep, deep down, a permanent part of Moody wanted Minerva to want him and only him. Only Mad-Eye.

- / - / -

They'd fallen asleep after a time, spooned together under the thin old duvet. Before they'd put out the candles, Moody had finally removed his artificial leg, and Minerva, of course, had been very matter-of-fact about it. She had neither stared nor pretended not to see; she'd just waited for him to finish and then moved over so that he could lie next to her.

They'd both needed a few minutes to settle down. It had been a long time since either of them had shared sleeping space with another, so there were the inevitable shiftings and movements, noses that needed to be scratched and arms that got awkwardly placed.

But soon a comfy drowsiness had stolen over Moody, and he had drifted off, feeling a warmth that had little to do with the actual temperature of the draughty old house.

- / - / -

He'd awakened two hours later for his regular stint of security surveillance, and for the first time since his release from Barty Crouch's trunk, he'd been tempted to skip it. He just wanted to stay in bed and continue his dream, one that had been very much like his actual last waking hours - he'd been dreaming of Minerva's body moving against his, fierce and sweet.

But duty had called, of course, and he'd gone through the process of accio-ing his leg and charming it on in the dark, moving as little as possible to avoid disturbing Min.

- / - / -

Tuesday, 16 August 1995, 4:02

And now here he stood, in this dusty, mouldering corridor, scanning Grimmauld Place from attics to cellars. All clear, if you didn't count the vermin, and obviously neither Black nor his house-elf cared about it, so Moody didn't know why he should.

There was no danger at the moment, and he could return to Minerva at last.

She stirred when he slid into bed beside her and smiled at him sleepily; he loved how relaxed she seemed, how girlish, with her flowing hair and pale skin.

"Alastor," she said without surprise, as if she woke up next to him regularly. Stretching, catlike, she sat up and reached for her wand, casting a Lumos.

Moody was startled. "What are you doing?"

"It's late. Or early. I should go."

"Minerva, it's four in the morning," he told her irritably.

"I know. I want to get back to Hogwarts before anyone is stirring."

"It's summer. Who's even there? And the school gates won't open for another couple of hours anyway; you won't be able to get through the wards."

Minerva pursed her lips, an expression so characteristic of her that it had etched permanent lines in her face; Moody suddenly wanted to reach out and trace them, but he restrained himself. Instead, he grinned as she snapped, "Give me some credit. I've been at Hogwarts nearly forty years. The Weasley twins aren't the only ones who know how to get in and out without being seen."

Moody's amusement changed abruptly to concern. "What do you mean? Are the castle's defences that easily breached? Why the hell doesn't Dumbledore do something about it? He - "

"Calm down, Alastor! The defences are fine. The big, bad Auror," she said with a small smile, tracing her finger along the scars on his chest, "forgets that he's been consorting with a woman of authority. I am the Deputy Headmistress of the school, after all. I know you think Albus is dismissive of me, but he's very good about making sure I have the powers I need. I can get in and out of the castle when I need to. And what's more" - she kissed him lightly - "I can get others in and out, too."

Moody felt his heart lurch. Did she mean that she wanted to continue seeing him?

"Are you propositioning me, Deputy Headmistress?" he growled, leaning over to nip her ear, so that she wouldn't see the yearning in his face. "We didn't work out last time, you know," he mumbled into her hair.

Not the most diplomatic of remarks, maybe, but she ought to know by now that tact wasn't in his nature. And he needed to make sure they were clear about everything. The war provided little enough in the way of real hopes; he didn't want either of them to cling to false ones.

Minerva pulled back in exasperation. "Good heavens, I'm hardly proposing an eternal magical bonding! Just an occasional visit. That is - "she interrupted herself, looking rather painfully vulnerable, "that is, if you're interested..."

"Oh, aye," Moody assured her, pushing against her so that she could feel his stiffening cock. "I'm interested."

"Good." She brushed her lips across his temple and stood, wanding the candles alight; then she donned her underwear and pulled her shift over her head. Moody watched appreciatively.

"You really don't have to leave just yet, you know," he said. "I'll make sure you're gone before that damned passel of Weasleys gets up."

"I'm sure you would, but perhaps we shouldn't try for too much too soon." She glanced at him as she took up her green over-robe, and he nodded. She was probably right.

"I'll put down the wards, then, whenever you're ready," he said, summoning his leg and starting to attach it yet again while still watching Minerva dress. He enjoyed her methodical precision, the lines of her body as she moved.

A complicated twist of her wand restored Minerva's hair to its customary bun, and she picked up her hat. Professor McGonagall was back.

Moody finished adjusting his leg and moved to stand next to her. "Ready?" he asked, taking out his wand.

"Yes, thank you."

"You'll be here Friday? For the meeting? Dumbledore's not going make you stay in the castle and mend the damn Sorting Hat or something?"

Minerva's lips tightened; she didn't like it when he criticised Albus. "I will be here Friday," she said.

"I'll still be staying here, I expect. I'll leave the muffliato in place on the room, shall I? Just in case there might be some use for it? You know, after the meeting?"

She raised an eyebrow. "That sounds wise," she acknowledged. "After all, one must maintain constant vigilance. Or so I've been told."

"Aye," he said, giving her his best wolfish grin and spinning his eye for good measure. "Constant vigilance."

He put the wards down, then nodded at her. "You can leave now, Min. Don't splinch yourself."

She rolled her eyes and gave him a peck on the cheek. "Until Friday, Alastor," she said, and with a crack was gone.

Moody replaced the wards and then stood in the center of the room for a long time, scanning the darkest corners of the house and smiling.