-1946-

Minerva McGonagall was a smart lass.

Everyone in the village remarked upon it. It was no surprise; none! None at all, that she would be selected to attend the same private school that her Mum, Isobel, had. Why her father, Robert, must be beyond chuffed regarding his smart girl. And if some village wit remarked that Minerva's father, the Very Reverend Robert McGonagall, didn't seem excessively proud of his solemn daughter; it was because he was the very picture of Christian humility.

Minerva McGonagall was a smart lass and she knew that she was the cause of the stress between her father and her mum.

Because she was a smart lass.

And a witch to boot.

So it was a mixture of relief, unhappiness and excitement that the Sorting Hat found when it was placed upon her head. Plus a heaped serving of intelligence, a cauldron of courage and a dash of Presbyterian primness.

A near-record Hat Stall occurred while the Sorting Hat weighed, measured and assessed the young witch on such minutiae as personality, height, hair and eye colour and gender. It debated that the last Hat Stall had occurred some seventy years previous with Filius Flitwick and he had ended in Ravenclaw. Done very well for himself, though he had the most distressing Gryffindorish tendencies. Dueling Champion and all that nonsense.

And while the Sorting Hat had once rested on the very beleaguered brow of the Great Godric Gryffindor, he had remembered far too well how often he, the Sorting Hat, had been maimed, stitched and re-stitched again due to Godric's Gryffindorish tendencies.

Really, the two of them, this Miss McGonagall and Professor Flitwick would get along like cauldrons on fire. They'd develop new esoteric realms of magic, debate theory and just generally cause havoc as they lacked Helga Hufflepuff's good sense for not disturbing what should remain in peace. Rowena and Godric had often harassed Salazar after an all-night bender while Helga had been quite content to leave the dragon in his cave, sleeping off the previous night's excessive exuberance.

Therefore for the world's safety, he decided it best to split the Dangerous Duo apart. That didn't mean that the Sorting Hat didn't have a moment's regret when he saw how Albus Dumbledore's blue eyes gleamed when Minerva was announced as one of his lions.

And the Sorting Hat prayed to the very gods of haberdashery that he'd remain unscathed.

"GRYFFINDOR!" announced the Sorting Hat. The young lions made a great deal of noise after that announcement, relishing the chance to make a ruckus without fear of reprisal. Meanwhile, the rumoured eccentric Professor Dumbledore gave her a welcoming smile that didn't seem all that unbalanced considering how crooked his nose was. He nodded his head in encouragement and Minerva carefully walked towards the Gryffindor area. Fortunately, there was another girl among the latest pride of lions. It would only be the two of them against a dozen plus young boys for that year's Gryffindors, but the two girls would develop a formidable reputation for self-preservation by the end of the first month.

"Amelia, Amelia Bones," introduced the other lioness. She had a square jaw, bright eyes and a steady glance. Minerva liked her quite at once.

"Minerva, Minerva McGonagall," Minerva said.

Instinctively, her hand found Amelia's hand. Both young witches seemed surprised that they were holding hands, but not necessarily alarmed. Really, they were away from all that they had ever known, so it was good to have a friend, a bosom friend.

And really, it wasn't that odd, that when one girl softly sniffled in the darkness that first night at Hogwarts, that her new friend joined her in her bed. It was a big bed after all.

- 1953 –

Minerva and Amelia became quite close during their years at Hogwarts. So close that some of their Year mates made disparaging comments about them being a 'couple'. True Gryffindors, Minerva and Amelia handled it in their direct fashion, hexing the entire sorry lot of them and refusing to remove the rather painful and embarrassing hex/curse until the boys apologised.

Sincerely.

Albus Dumbledore called the Amazonian Avengers into his office. His face was stern enough to frighten Boadicea, but Minerva wasn't frightened, not at all! Because Fawkes was sitting on his perch, preening his feathers. If Professor Dumbledore was displeased, Fawkes would have picked up on his agitation.

Well, that's what Minerva reminded herself as a stern Professor Dumbledore took his seat at his desk. He sat down, removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes for just a moment. He then shook his head.

"Headmaster Dippet has requested that I remind both of you terrors that casting a combination of Furnunculus and Glisseo is not the best way to handle disagreements with your fellow students. May I ask why you two felt the need to inflict painful bum boils on your fellow Gryffindors? And then sliding them down the staircase? It seems to be a bit of overkill."

Both students stared at the floor and shook their heads.

He tapped his fingers on the desk for a moment; upon his realization that the miscreants would not confess the reason behind their crimes, he requested a House Elf bring them a spot of tea. He had found that oftentimes, tea and cucumber sandwiches prompted confessions from the guiltiest of suspects.

"Are the boys bothering you again?" he asked while he passed them the tray with cucumber sandwiches.

Amelia nodded slightly, just a bare nod that Professor Dumbledore noticed. Minerva refused to let her head twitch, not even a feather's width.

"What did they do this time?" was his next question. "It's quite upset the both of you."

Both witches shook their heads as they couldn't bring themselves to repeat those terrible words to Professor Dumbledore.

"Would you be more comfortable writing it down?"

Both nodded. Being a professor, he had an abundant supply of quill and parchment.

"Write it down."

They both completed their assignments and handed it to Professor Dumbledore. He read them both, somberly nodded his head and then dissolved the parchments.

"I promise you that I will handle this. If comments about your sexual preferences are made, you are to inform me and I will handle it. Immediately. Unfortunately, you will both have detention on Saturday. I cannot permit the Head Girl to require the Hogwarts medi-witch to lance boils for my Seventh Years."

"Detention!" wailed the star Gryffindor Seeker and Chaser in perfect unison. "But…"

"Yes, the Quidditch match will proceed without you both. I do hope that your teammates will uphold the honour of Gryffindor as I have a friendly house wager with Professor Slughorn," was his mild response. "However, since it appears likely that I will be required to "pay up" as you young people might say, part of your detention will require you preparing his winnings. You'll have to prepare the Petrified Agrippa Root… sans gloves."

"That means…." protested Minerva.

"Yes, that means if you are not careful, your hands will be stained emerald green and your finger nails…. silver. Now, you're dismissed."

The two miscreants returned to their dorm room. An upset Minerva had a crying jag and Amelia rubbed her back.

"I don't know why they keep calling us names," she protested.

"You've never had a boyfriend," Amelia explained. "Plus you're loads smarter than they are, because you study all the time. They're jealous. And I turned down Nigel Black's invite to go to the Astronomy Tower to 'help him with his Astronomy'. He got his jimjams in a knot and he decided to take it out on us."

She shuddered dramatically.

"I don't like boys like that…" Amelia explained. Then in a softer voice, "I like girls."

"Do you have a girlfriend?" Minerva asked. "I know Martha…"

She stopped then, uncertain about the feeling of jealousy she felt toward Martha. Was it proper and Presbyterian? Goodness knows Minerva wondered about the feelings that stirred within her heart when Amelia was freshly showered.

"No, I fancy someone who doesn't know I feel that way about her," Amelia shyly confessed.

"Really? Who is it?" was a guileless Minerva's question.

Amelia leaned forward and gave her a quick buzz on her cheek. She blushed furiously and Minerva's mouth dropped open in surprise.

"For someone who is so smart, you're really quite dense," Amelia admitted.

The two young women stared at each other for a moment and then Minerva kissed Amelia on the lips. It was a quick kiss, and then she broke away from Amelia. She stared at the floor, her heart pounding. What would her father, the Minister, say? She had kissed a girl!

And she had rather enjoyed it!

– 1956 –

"Why do you always pin your hair back? Is it because Mr. Elphinstone Urquart prefers it that way?" Amelia Bones asked Minerva, deliberately stressing his name. Amelia was lying in their bed in the small flat they shared, little caring that she needed to be at work in fifteen minutes. It was easy for Amelia, as she kept her hair short. Not so for Minerva, as she kept her hair long.

Minerva shook her head. "Are you jealous of Mr. Urquart?"

"You speak of him in such rarified terms, traditionally reserved for the great Albus Dumbledore," explained Amelia.

Minerva pursed her lips in slight, instinctive disapproval. In the two years since Amelia and she had begun their careers at the Ministry, Amelia seemed to have changed. In minute, but still noticeable ways, such as no longer sharing Minerva's high esteem for Albus Dumbledore. And her comments about Mr. Urquart! For some reason Amelia truly disliked Mr. Urquart, who Minerva believed was a dear, sweet man. If Minerva didn't know better, she'd believe that Amelia was jealous.

"It seems that is exactly how you formerly spoke of your father. Well, until little Edgar showed up in the broom closet," teased Minerva.

"I cannot believe that my parents were still doing it! At their advanced age!" Amelia insisted. "My father had just turned…. forty two!"

Amelia turned onto her belly and kicked up her stocking clad heels.

"When were you planning on mentioning your owl from Dumbledore?" Amelia asked. Her voice was strangely intense.

That blasted owl. How had Amelia known about it? Unless Amelia was keeping an eye out on Minerva.

"When you mentioned the fact you had tea with Lillian," retorted Minerva. "You were too busy to have tea with me, but you and Lillian Rogers…."

"Just keeping up appearances," explained Amelia. "One must not let the sainted Mr. Urquart know that you're involved with me. It will ruin your chance for promotion."

Good Lord, not that again! Minerva quickly prayed to God that He'd excused Minerva taking his name in vain but Amelia seemed fixated on the promotion that Minerva had refused. Minerva hadn't refused because of their relationship, but because she was rapidly discovering that what had once appealed to her (London), no longer held the same allure it once did. No, her thoughts were turning towards Scotland, her dreams full of the Highlands, Tiree and Inner Hebrides.

"Our relationship is not the reason why I refused the promotion," protested Minerva. "I don't particularly care for London."

London was just too much.

Too noisy.

Too close together.

And the small flat she shared with Amelia seemed to get smaller and more confining every day. She loved Amelia, adored her with every ounce of her being, but ... they seemed to be growing apart. Amelia seemed to have fallen in with a new, wilder Pure Blooded crowd… Amelia who spoke of Lillian the Pure Blooded so admiringly… what with her social connections… how the two of them were going to change the world… the Magical world. While Minerva, the half blood, was content to have her teas with Mr. Urquart; a quiet, dear man who reminded her so much of her father in the considerate way he spoke and dealt with his fellow Ministry employees. She enjoyed their teas, and was fascinated by their conversations. He was brilliant. And his sense of humor? Terribly, terribly wry.

And Mr. Urquart was becoming a large bone of contention between them. Really, did Amelia have to incessantly comment on how, the one day Amelia had actually been early for work, she had noticed that Mr. Urquart had stopped in front of one of the large mirrors in the Ministry Main Hall in order to preen? That he had attempted to hide the grey at his temples and in his beard before he had entered the Ministry? That he had straightened his robes?

Because Minerva had already noticed how he tried to conceal his greying hair. Fortunately, it was done with slight of hand, nothing as drastic as a Darkening Hair Spell. And she thought it quite a shame, as she truly liked his greying temples and the touch of silver in his beard.

Really, with his kind eyes and crooked smile, what woman would be turned off by a little bit of grey? And yes, he was unmarried at his advanced age! Minerva had learned in passing that his parents had died during the Spanish influenza pandemic, leaving a very young Elphinstone to raise his younger three sisters by himself. Perhaps that was why he had never settled down when he was younger, because he had no time for courting when struggling to keep them fed, clothed and on the correct side of the law. But now with all three sisters married, it seemed odd that he wasn't stepping out with anyone. Goodness knows he had used Minerva at more than one Ministry function to deflect the more determined admirers that his sisters had foisted upon him.

Perhaps he had someone he fancied. That would explain a great many things.

So, if he did have a lady he secretly fancied, why ridicule him? If he was too bashful to admit it, hopefully the lady in question would realise what a diamond he was.

"Was it a job offer from dear Dumbles? I saw that there is a posting at Hogwarts," was Amelia's next comment. "I don't wish to relocate to Scotland."

"No, you don't have to move to Scotland," snapped Minerva.

"Well, yes, it would be hard to explain me at the rectory, wouldn't it?" snapped Amelia. "I'm the Minister's daughter's lesbian lover. Destined for hellfire!"

"At least my father knows you exist. I still haven't been introduced to the truly-not-that-old Gareth Bones because you're ashamed of me." Minerva sharply retorted. "I'm leaving. I need to get to work on time. I don't have a Lillian to overlook my tardiness."

Her snippy comment about Lillian had caused Amelia to apologise sincerely. There had been a great deal of kissing and tearful reassurances that they both loved each other very much. Sincere promises that they'd work on their issues had been made, but Minerva had noticed that their arguments were increasing in frequency. Yes, they had made up, properly, but Minerva was coming to the sad realisation that things were just not the same as they once were. Their relationship was no longer as easy as it had once been, but required a great deal of work.

And damn her for being a fool, Minerva was wondering if it was worth the energy. Not with an Amelia who was growing more distant, whose political views were sufficiently out of sync with hers to cause flare ups. They both wished to change the world; however, Amelia believed being part of the system was the best way to bring about change. Minerva was beginning to believe that adult minds were too inflexible to accept change, so it was best to influence young minds.

"Miss McGonagall, you seem upset. Let's have a spot of tea," Mr. Urquart insisted. He made no mention of the fact that she was terribly, terribly late… a whole fifteen minutes! And that her eyes were red-rimmed as her attempts at a Perk Up spell had failed.

That did it, she proceeded to sob uncontrollably after he handed her a freshly laundered handkerchief. Mr. Urquart did a nice bit of magic, a Do Not Bother spell that encompassed the entire office and then he sat down. "Let it out, my dear girl," he insisted.

She scriked like a homesick firstie, and he said not a word when she admitted that Amelia and she were lovers. Not a furrowed brow of disgusted disapproval, but instead there was understanding and compassion in his brown eyes. He had known… and not cared a lick.

"Hogwarts sweethearts?" Mr. Urquart asked. "First love?"

A sniffling Minerva nodded.

"I would surmise that you two are growing up and apart. It happens." His voice was mild and free from condescension.

"But I love her," Minerva softly protested.

"And I'm quite sure she loves you. However, she adores London, you don't. You long for Scotland, she doesn't as Amelia is from Sussex. I'm Scottish, I can understand the allure of Scotland. Amelia Bones believes that she can change the system by being in the system; you wish to change the system by changing people. You are not happy here with me. Therefore, Miss McGonagall, I wish you to take the job at Hogwarts. Submit your resignation. And yes, I know about the job offer from Professor Dumbledore. At first, I was rather vexed that he was attempting to lure away my best worker, but now it truly might be what you need."

She slumped into the chair and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.

"A slight separation may ease the current stress in your relationship," he repeated. "And as for Gareth Bones, I always found him tolerant and progressive in his views. I'm quite sure he's aware of his daughter's inclinations and is waiting for her to feel comfortable enough to broach the matter with him. Even though we live in these enlightened times, some witches and wizards much prefer the 19th century."

He shook his head in disapproval.

"Please keep in touch, my dear girl. Perhaps, if I'm in Scotland, we might have a spot of tea?" It was a polite request combined with a slight smile.

"Yes, please, Mr. Urquart."

Truly, she would miss him.

"No. No. You no longer work for me, so please call me Elphinstone. Actually, call me Finn. Who in their right mind, calls their son, Elphinstone? I think there was a family member with money that someone hoped to impress." Mr. Urquart, no, Finn, shook his head.

– 1976 –

Auror Trainee, hopefully soon to be Junior Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt, adjusted his kufi and stood at attention. In a few minutes, he'd be given his final assignment. A two year field internship with a seasoned Auror.

Don't let it be Alastor Moody. Don't let it be Moody.

Alastor Moody was astray in the head, a raving nutter and his reputation for breaking Auror Internees was the very stuff of legends. Nobody in recent recorded history had survived even six months with Alastor, let alone the full two years.

"Hopefully, I'll get your father," Kingsley told his fellow trainee Edgar Bones.

Gareth Bones had an easy laugh, a quick wit and unflappable disposition. He was also the only known survivor of the severe hardship known as the Moody Field Internship. Senior Bones was also the only person that could calm Alastor Moody when he went on a tear.

It wasn't just that. Well, a great deal of it was exactly that, but also Gareth Bones was fatherly. He and Edgar's mum, Susan, had all but adopted the orphaned Kingsley after the first time Edgar had brought his fellow, itinerant trainee home from the Auror Trainee Hall for a holiday. Kingsley even got his own overloaded care packages from Susan, full of homemade goodies. And Gareth would make gentle suggestions, how to hold one's wand, how to handle oneself in a certain situation, the best way to handle a curmudgeonly instructor.

"Kingsley?" Rufus Scrimgeour announced. "I'm delighted to inform you that your mentor will be…"

Really, Rufus' smirk was enough warning for Kingsley.

"Alastor Moody."

The Ministry Malcontent, the Living Legend, the Terror of Trainees and all around Hairy-eyeballed Hardchaw growled his disapproval. Alastor Moody looked Kingsley up and down, estimated the number of teeth he possessed, noticed the earring with a slightly critical frown, and arched a bemused eyebrow at Kingsley's dashiki influenced robes.

No… no… Alastor Moody didn't make a dry comment about "I didn't realise today was fancy dress day at the office?" He had been just loud enough so only Kingsley could hear him.

Bloody Paddies. Thought their culture was the only acceptable one. Least Madman Moody didn't paint his body blue and prance around the office in the all together.

Wait, Gareth Bones had overheard the comment too, as his eyes had flicked between Moody and Shacklebolt and then back again to Moody. While Gareth's face was expressionless, his eyes were dancing. In amusement. Which meant…. Alastor was pushing Kingsley's buttons to see him if he'd implode or explode.

Wonderful. Two years of Moody was probably akin to two years in Azkaban. Except there was a higher survivor rate for Azkaban.

"Well, you're my trainee. Pack your kit, I anticipate that you'll be on my doorstep in one hour or I'll give you the what for."

Then the Bastard Moody Disapparated, leaving Kingsley wondering where the hell Alastor Moody lived. As part of his internship, Kingsley Shacklebolt would move into Moody's residence for the remainder of his training. If he succeeded in finding the bloody house. The Grizzled Grouch, the Perturbed Paddy, hadn't bothered to tell him where he lived, except that he anticipated that Kingsley would be on time. Then the berk left after not even giving him the expected arrival time.

Gareth Bones tapped him on his shoulder. Then with a tilt of his head, he motioned for Kingsley to follow him away from the crowd.

"No need to tell me, you're not happy with your assignment. Blame me, I told Rufus to put you with Alastor," he softly explained. "Moody's Fire personified - the living embodiment of Agni, the Hindu God of Fire. You're the first true Earth trainee we've had… well… since me. He needs someone to balance his Fire or else Alastor will self-flambé."

"His trainees…" Kingsley began.

He earned a one armed hug from Gareth.

"Look, Kingsley. You're like a son to me. Fortunately, you arrived on my doorstep fully grown and not in need of nappy changes. I wouldn't request you get assigned to Alastor, if I didn't believe that you are fully capable of handling yourself. Alastor is a good man. All fire, no manners, but a good man. You can learn a great deal from him. More than if you interned with Pius Thicknesse. He'll show you the taverns; Alastor will show you how to know right from wrong, even if it disagrees with the official Ministry line. We need more people like Moody, but it would be of more benefit if they weren't Agni. He means well. He does. But he's been in the field, solo, for too long. And Alastor is a drinking man."

Gareth Bones put both hands on Kingsley's shoulders.

"Promise me, be Earth. Fire transforms us, Earth renews us. Kingsley, I fear we live in very dangerous times. I fear that we will need Earth to rebuild what remains after the Fire has burned out."

– 1979 –

"Get up," growled Alastor Moody to his no-longer intern but now full partner Kingsley Shacklebolt. Kingsley was in the midst of The Quibbler's crossword puzzle, pondering about a seven letter word for a creature that infested mistletoe and was repelled by radishes. Let's see… seven letter word, starting with N…third letter was R. "We're going. Something has happened to Gareth. Something bad. Really bad. We're going in wands blazing."

Long used to Alastor's idiosyncrasies, an unquestioning Kingsley dropped his crossword and followed Alastor. The older Auror limped to the Debarkation Point, the one area that was sufficiently unwarded to permit Aurors to Disapparate from inside the Auror Office.

"How bad?" Kingsley asked.

"I think he's only got a few minutes," admitted Alastor in a soft voice. In a louder, commanding tone, "Rufus, you need to send a squad to the Bones residence."

"What?" Head Auror Rufus Scrimegour asked. "A squad? Why?"

"I read my tea leaves. Just do it, Rufus," Alastor roared. "Actually, send TWO."

"Alastor, must I remind you of the last time I assembled a full squad for you?" Rufus asked. "Are you even sober?"

"Claim it's a drill," growled Alastor. He grabbed Kingsley by the forearm and Disapparated from the office.

The duo arrived in Hell, a small room where they were backed into a corner by thirty Death Eaters. A bleeding Gareth Bones was standing over the prone form of his son, Edgar. The Senior Auror was casting the wild and desperate hexes of a man determined to pay Charon's fare with as many souls as he could bring along for the ride.

"Grab Edgar and go!" Alastor roared as he began casting.

"Can't. Warded," gasped Gareth as he threw another underhanded hex.

"That's cheating!" Alastor, firm believer in fair play, bellowed before he blew out a wall with an underhand gesture. "So we're leaving!"

Kingsley could never explain exactly what happened next. He had grabbed Edgar then had been pushed out the gaping hole in the wall that hadn't previously existed. Freefalling for a moment, he heard Alastor screaming something even while his mind only registered, "OH MY GOD –GROUND APPROACHING FAST!"

BAM!

The four of them landed on Rufus Scrimgeour's once pristine desk. It was a personal quirk of Rufus that he always cleared his desk before he left at night.

Kingsley landed on top of Edgar and he realized why Edgar didn't complain when he looked at his sightless eyes. Alastor was on top of him, crushing him as the older Auror outweighed him by a few stones, plus Gareth was on top of Alastor. Moody shifted his weight, as he struggled to get off the desk without jarring Gareth.

"Edgar?" whispered Gareth. "Edgar?"

"He's fine," Alastor's normally harsh voice was soft and soothing. Kingsley had heard that tone only once before, when Alastor had comforted a dying Auror. Oh, dear God, no, not Gareth AND Edgar. Not on the same day. Not on the same sortie.

"Kingsley's taking care of him. We'll get him to the Healer, Gareth."

It wasn't a lie. The Auror Healer, Maxwell Forrester, was also in charge of funerals.

"Susan?" Gareth's voice was getting softer.

"I told Rufus to send two Squads to your residence," Alastor explained.

"Tell … family…. I love…." Gareth's voice stopped just as Rufus entered his office. A sharp intake of breath was heard when Rufus realised that both Auror Bones had completed their last assignments.

"Three squads to Auror Gareth Bones' residence," Rufus crisply ordered. "Auror Proudfoot, you will be in charge. Now go! Someone get Max and tell him he's needed in my office. "

"You didn't send them?" Alastor asked. "You didn't send them?"

"I sent them, Alastor. I did. But if both Auror Bones were taken down, then those two squads may be in dire need of assistance. Let's get Gareth and Edgar presentable. I'll stand First Watch while you and Kingsley get checked over. Since you were there, I'll want both of you to do the Final Watch for our brothers."

– 1979 –

"Miss McGonagall," Albus Dumbledore began. He stopped, and then continued with a soft, "Minerva."

Not his usual timbre. His blue eyes were sober and Fawkes was mournfully chirping.

"Is it my father?" Minerva asked. Really, it was her first thought as Robert McGonagall was in his late sixties and a Muggle after all.

"No. No, it's regarding Amelia Bones. I know you two were close during your Hogwarts' years. The Death Eaters went after her family. Both Auror Bones were killed and… so was Susan Bones, Edgar's wife Catherine and their three children."

Her heart skipped three beats and then it jolted back into a syncopated rhythm. While it had been years… decades… since she and Amelia had been a couple, there still existed a certain fondness. One sided, perhaps, but Minerva still thought of her.

"Amelia?" she whispered.

"She's alive. It appears that they only went after the Bones family members who were in the Order and their immediate families."

Minerva nodded her head. Knowing Amelia as well as she did, she would loudly proclaim to all that 'Dumbledore's Vigilantes' were the cause of death.

"That leaves Alastor Moody as the sole insider in the Ministry," she reminded Albus. She didn't struggle very hard to prevent her bad opinion of Mr. Alastor Moody from colouring her tone. She had liked Gareth Bones a great deal after she had finally met him at the Order of the Phoenix's meetings. However, she had found Alastor Moody to be distinctively lacking when compared to Gareth and Edgar Bones; in key areas such as sobriety and sanity.

"I know you disapprove of Alastor," was Albus' mild response.

"He's a bloody alcoholic," she snapped. "Paranoid and downright delusional!"

"He's never been inebriated at any of the Order meetings," Albus reminded her.

"The Prewetts' Funeral? Caradoc Dearborn's wake? He was utterly pissed," protested Minerva.

"Your Presbyterian morals are bleeding through your tartans," was Albus' final comment on the subject of one Alastor Moody.

– 1979 –

Minerva McGonagall was quite angry when she realised that Alastor Moody was bloody bawsed. For the funerals, he was standing in a place of honor, the Final Watch over the assorted Bones' coffins along with a younger Auror. And he was drunk! It took a moment for Minerva to realise that the younger Auror was Kingsley Shacklebolt – one of her multitude of former students. She couldn't be blamed for not immediately recognising him, as the former Slytherin once had hair. A great deal of it, she remembered. Not now, as he was as clean shaven as a billiard ball. He stepped in front of her before she reached Alastor Moody, as though she was in need of protection from a drunken, crazed Auror.

"Professor McGonagall," he said. His voice had deepened since he left Hogwarts.

"Auror Moody is bloody pissed," she hissed.

"That he is," was his response. "However, he's functioning. Leave him be. You try to remove him and there will be issues. And speaking of issues, here they come in the form of Madam Amelia Bones."

A grief stricken Amelia Bones bore down on Minerva McGonagall. Her face was ravaged by grief and her eyes were fiery. And following in her wake, was Lillian Rogers, wearing black like she was a family member.

"Why are you here, Minerva? I was anticipating that Professor Dumbledore would be here, or does he not attend the funerals of his vigilantes? I warned my father and I warned my brother to watch out for Albus Dumbledore. He skirts the law and this is what happens. My father and my brother died because of Albus Dumbledore." Amelia's tone was harsh and accusatory.

"Madame Bones," interrupted a familiar voice. It was a heavily greying Elphinstone Urquart who spoke. "May I offer my condolences on the death of your father and your brother? Your father and I were close friends since our days at Hogwarts. And your father and your brother died because they were Aurors facing overwhelming odds. Do not cheapen their deaths by crediting another person. They knew what being an Auror meant."

Amelia Bones shook her head. "I spoke with Rufus Scrimgeour about their deaths. They weren't out in Galway on Auror business; they went out on their own. I'm assuming that it was in reference to Albus Dumbledore because Senior Auror Moody knew exactly where to find them."

She walked up to Alastor Moody and poked him once in the chest. "Their deaths on your soul, Senior Auror Moody. I pray that they haunt your waking hours."

Madame Bones tilted her head and then sniffed.

"You're polluted," she whispered, her voice shaking in her fury. "Were you at the local pub when my father needed you? Or where you sleeping one off?"

"I didn't know what they were doing," protested Moody. His voice was firm and remarkably clear. "I was in the office."

"Then how did you know where they were. You yelled for help, ordered a squad to my parents' home and pulled your partner to the very spot my father was. How did you know? If this wasn't common knowledge to Albus' Vigilantes…" Minerva earned a sharp, disapproving look from Amelia at that comment. "HOW DID YOU KNOW WHERE MY FATHER WAS?"

Alastor Moody shook his head. "Amelia Bones, no. I will not tell you, not here, not while your mother and father are lying in an eternal embrace in their coffin."

Silence fell and Minerva saw Rufus Scrimgeour motioning for two Aurors to replace Alastor and Kingsley.

"Christ," swore the sharp as a tack Amelia. "He was your Trainee. You did it the old way, didn't you? With my father? He was your Eromenos?"

"Amelia, your father didn't meet your mother until after he earned his Auror Badge. Let it go, Amelia," ordered Elphinstone.

"I don't want you here, Auror Moody. I don't want my father's Erastês standing guard over my mother's coffin. And I certainly don't want you here, Minerva, as Dumbledore's proxy. Take Mr. Urquart and leave."

– 1979 –

Kingsley Shacklebolt watched in silence as Alastor Moody poured himself a drink. It was Moody's fifth shot in the hour since they had been all but forcibly removed from the Bones' funeral. Kingsley was still sober as he hadn't had so much as a drop of alcohol.

"I loved him," the older Alastor softly admitted. "Back then, it was done the old way. It was… five years of internship and… I never broke the bond. Gareth knew… and…when he was attacked, he screamed for me, because he knew… I'd hear him. I felt him die. He gave everything he had in that final fire fight to ensure that I'd get Edgar's body back home. So I could get a squad to his house to save his wife. And it wasn't enough."

The older man broke down in tears then, raw and soul shredding. Uncertain of what to do next, exactly, as Kingsley had developed more than a modicum of respect combined with a fierce fondness for the ornery Auror. He knew how it would end if he embraced Alastor. And while he'd welcome it, as he fancied Alastor, he wasn't sure what the reaction would be when Alastor woke.

Well, time to take off his pants and do it for England. Or in this case, for a guilt-crazed, grieving, drunken Auror.

He embraced Alastor tightly and when Alastor kissed him, he kissed him back.

– 1979 –

Minerva allowed Elphinstone… no, Finn… to escort her from the room. She leaned heavily on his arm, greatly appreciating his rock solid support.

"Don't be angry with Amelia," he softly requested after they Disapparated back to Hogwarts' Main Gate. "She's grieving right now and lashing out at everyone. Especially those closest to her."

"You are far too compassionate and understanding for your own good," Minerva said quietly. Then she tightly embraced the older man. "And for my own good, Finn."

They hugged for a bit, Minerva finally allowing herself the luxury to snuggle into his arms. A long-delayed decision was finally made, before Minerva looked up at the taller wizard. "Yes," she simply said.

He ceased embracing her and pulled away from her. "Yes?" he softly repeated. His crooked smile was hopeful.

"Yes. My father can perform the wedding and I'll move into your little rose covered cottage in Hogsmeade. I'm keeping my maiden name as I am too attached to it to change."

"I would never ask you to change for me. I also never thought I'd be saying this, but no, I will not marry you. Not if you're on the rebound from Amelia," he protested.

"Amelia and I are long over. As I have got older, I finally realised that the ability to have a deep conversation with someone I respect…" Minerva began.

Finn rolled his eyes, a most ungentlemanly response. Well, he was male. He was doomed by that extra appendage.

"And care for deeply is a most remarkable gift," she admitted. "Elphinstone…. Finn… my dear, dear Finn, you've been so patient while you've waited for me to mature. For me to see what I've truly desired has been here all along."

"Of course, I would be patient. It's always been you for me, Minerva. I set my cap for you since you first walked through the office door to interview for the position. You were such a marvel that I found myself entranced, damning myself for being a dirty old man. Though, I must confess that lately I was becoming discouraged with my continual pursuit." He gave a shaky laugh. "You, being in the flower of youth, with me fast approaching the state of acute decrepitude."

Now, it was Minerva's turn to arch her eyebrow. Then her disapproval softened as she realised he was truly quite concerned. He wasn't Amelia, fiery and passionate, intent on changing the world. He was Finn, a solitary, introspective gentleman, content with a cuppa, a good book and an intelligent conversation. She loved them both, but in very different ways.

"Marry me, Finn?" Minerva asked. He nodded once, removed his glasses and wiped his eyes.

"I received permission from your father decades ago, but I should speak to him again," Finn confessed.

"You know my father?" Minerva asked.

"I actually know both your parents. When you first started working for me, I owl'd your mother, asking if your father would like to meet your new employer. Since Robert is a Muggle, I thought he'd be concerned and rightfully so about his daughter working in Wizarding London. I quite like your father; he's a great deal like you. Isobel, however, was quite alarmed by my age, and it took a great deal of convincing from your father to gain her permission to court you."

Truly, the Pure Blooded Finn was from another age, as he had asked her mother's permission to court her?

"You asked my mother permission to court me?" She didn't realise that she had spoken that out loud until Finn nodded his head.

"It was a few years after you left for Hogwarts. It took a good five years for her to agree."

"1967?" Minerva asked. "It was the day I accidentally met you in Hogsmeade. Tomorrow morning, we'll both speak to my parents. However, I wish to spend the night with you, Finn."

She kissed him while he protested. Well, yes, Minerva McGonagall was a proper woman, a lady and… well… while it was sweet that Finnie was the perfect gentleman, she was in the flower of youth. Plus once they were married, she wasn't planning on reading books every single night. Or playing go.

And truly, they had been officially courting – with parental permission! – for over a decade! It was past time to take it to the next level. And now, Finn's Old World, Pure Blooded traditions be damned, the next step wouldn't be done with parental permission.

"Well, there are certain formalities that must be observed," he told her as he knelt before her. From one of his pockets, he pulled out a small box and opened it. "Will you do me the honour of marrying me?"

She nodded and held out her hand. Amazingly enough, the ring fitting perfectly. That done, Finn got to his feet and then gave her a very shy smile.

"What now?" he asked.

"I think a kiss would be appropriate," she prompted.

It was a proper kiss, which meant it was completely inappropriate for Minerva McGonagall, spinster Professor at a Magical Boarding School. There was tongue and hands in not such proper areas …. Being a quite proper kiss between two betrothed, it made Minerva McGonagall, newly engaged, wish for somewhere private.

Quite Private.

With no CHILDREN nearby.

And well yes, that included Albus Dumbledore, Filius Flitwick and Horace Slughorn. Thank you very, very much.

"Take me home, Finn. Take me to our home," Minerva clarified.

She didn't smile when he dropped the keys to the cottage or when he fumbled with unbuttoning her blouse. However, Minerva did smile when she shyly admitted to him that up until then, she had never been with … a man.

"I may not know what to do with you," she admitted. It wasn't quite the truth, as she had done The Talk for umpteen years, yet it wasn't a lie either, because… really, after waiting for so long, didn't Finn deserve… "To make it worth the wait."

"Matters not to me, dear. For I have such lovely, lovely ideas," Finn told her before he gave her another proper kiss.

– 1979 –

Alastor Moody got out of the bed, not even bothering to wrap himself in a blanket. No, he was utterly starkers as he staggered towards a nearly empty bottle of Scotch. He poured himself the remainder and he quickly swallowed it. The morning greeted appropriately, he then collapsed into a chair and put his hands on his head. Kingsley could hear the older Auror roundly cursing himself.

Kingsley pulled himself to the end of the bed, made damn sure to cover himself with a blanket as he was saluting the dawn in the traditional manner.

"A little early for a nip, isn't it?" Kingsley kept his voice soft, but he was more than a bit concerned. He had known that Alastor was a drinker but he hadn't known the extent. Yes, most of the older Aurors were too comfortable with the bottle, but Kingsley had never known that Alastor was a highly-functional alcoholic.

His comment earned a jerk from Alastor.

"Christ, you're real," spat Alastor.

"I hope so, you buggered me all last night," stated Kingsley. "Do you have many sexual fantasies regarding me? You must if you're surprised that I'm real. I feel flattered."

"I called you Gareth," growled Alastor.

In the middle of the night, when a groggy Alastor had discovered he was not alone in his bed, there had been a plaintive whisper of "Gareth?"

Well, Kingsley would give him points for acknowledging it.

"That you did," Kingsley easily admitted. "What now?"

"Brekkie?" Alastor offered. It was a half-hearted offer as Alastor plainly wished Kingsley to disappear.

"Sounds delicious." Kingsley then stretched, permitting the blanket to fall to the floor, allowing Alastor a free show. "Let me wash up and then we'll have brekkie. And Alastor… don't you try to Oblivate me. Or put something extra in my eggs."

Alastor had a hungry look in his eyes but his voice was soft, "Put that away before you poke someone's eye out."

– 1988 –

Her husband embraced Minerva and gave her a very warm smile. She reached up to him and smoothed down his now white hair.

"I'm glad you have a Time Turner so you're not late for Hogwarts. Professor Dumbledore would give you detention for being late," Finn solemnly stated. "There would be probably thousands of lines too."

"I shall not let my husband waylay…" Minerva began in overly enunciated tones that she saved exclusively for dispensing lines to her multitudes of miscreants.

"Waylay?" Finn interrupted. "I did no such thing. Waylaid - it implies that you were not a completely willing participant. That I tricked or coerced you into going astray."

"…waylay me into sexual congress when I have a staff breakfast at seven in the morning," Minerva stated primly.

"I prefer, 'I shall remember that my husband is only human. I will not tease him by being utterly alluring, for it makes him eager and keen to prove his everlasting love for me'." He hugged her once more and she snuggled into his embrace, enjoying listening to his heartbeat, the smell of his cologne. "I love you with all my heart, dearest Minerva."

"I love you, too. What are your plans for today?"

"I ordered a new hybrid rose bush for the garden," he admitted. "Now don't give me such a stern face of disapproval. My rose garden is my only vice, dearest."

"You spend more time on your roses than you do me," teased Minerva.

"Don't be stroppy as you know my roses remind me of you. All those beautiful flowers with very sharp thorns," Elphinstone informed her. Then with his dark eyes twinkling, he added, "Much like I remind you of your students, hopelessly infatuated with you."

A few more kisses were exchanged and Finn gently pointed out the way to Hogwarts.

"Late, Professor McGonagall. Ten points from Gryffindor!"

She was in the middle of Third Year Transfiguration when the Headmaster entered the room. There were two Aurors with him…. one was dark skinned… earring… one of her former students though she couldn't quite place him, the other was John Prescott, one of her Lions.

"Class, I need to speak with Professor McGonagall. You're all excused," Albus commanded.

His normally whimsical façade was gone. No, he appeared sober… serious… like someone had died. Someone dear to him. Her knees became weak requiring her to heavily sit down, fortunately while her students stampeded out. She had long learned from her mother not to display the faintest sign of weakness in front of others. While it wasn't weakness to admit that in her heart, she feared something had happened to Finn. He was older... no... it couldn't be Finn.

"Finn?" She whispered.

"Minerva, I'm afraid that there's been an incident and Elphinstone…. is dead," Albus began.

"Incident?" Minerva protested in a disbelieving tone. "Incident? Finn?"

"Kingsley, if you would, please," requested Alastor.

"Professor McGonagall, Mr. Urquart," Kingsley began.

"Skip the titles, Auror. Get to the point." Her God-given ability to frighten former students was a gift from the Reverend Robert McGonagall.

"He received a package today from Hobart's Herbology," began Kingsley. There was an exchange of meaningful looks between Kingsley and Albus which irked Minerva. "It was an order for a Class C non-tradeable substance."

"He was expecting a rose bush today," Minerva explained. "I didn't realise that the Ministry had made a decree against owning rose bushes. That an Auror would be sent to arrest him for possession of an illegal rose bush."

"It was a Venomous Tentacula, Professor." Kingsley explained. "A neighbour heard what happened... and he contacted Hogwarts, the Healers and the Aurors. It was too late for Mr. Urquart. From what the Healers assured me, it was quick."

"No, Finn's highly allergic to that plant. He never would have ordered it, never would have transposed the numbers as he was methodical. Hobart's sent the wrong bloody plant even though Finn didn't have Ministry clearance to raise that plant. I'm going home." Instinctively, she reached toward the small box in her pocket.

Again there was the sideways glance between the two men.

"Prescott, check Hobart's," Kingsley requested. The Auror left and then Kingsley turned his back giving the two of them privacy. A somber Albus held out his hand.

"Minerva, give me the Time Turner, please. I know you still have it and that you used it this morning to arrive on time."

"No, I won't. There's still time. I can go back. I can save him," she quietly insisted. "Destroy the package before it arrives. Waylay him into ignoring the bloody box."

"You can't do that, Minerva."

"He's not important to anyone except for me. If he lives for a few more hours, a few more years, it matters not in the grand scheme of things," protested a slowly unraveling Minerva. "It matters only to me."

"Minerva; would that I could, but I cannot permit this," Albus quietly said. "You know how much I would give to take back that one hour in my life."

"But he's not important. He hasn't defeated a Dark Wizard. He's just a quiet man who loves… loved… his roses," protested Minerva. "He's only important to me."

Albus embraced her then and she uncontrollably wept. For Finn's death, for all that wasted time.