It was two weeks prior to Hogwarts' reopening when Minerva received an owl, requesting her presence at the Ministry, specifically Kingsley's... no, the Minister's office. It was the standard, "The Minister requests your presence," owl, but Minerva knew a command performance when it presented itself. She truly didn't have the time as there was so much left undone at the school. She was pouring her heart and soul into repairing Hogwarts, ignoring the multitude of House Elves who wished Headmistress Minerva to please sit and rest.
She didn't wish to sit and rest. For when she was resting, sitting or sleeping, her ghosts haunted her. All the dead students... Albus... Severus... Amelia... Finn... Remus and Dora...
The only thing that kept her spectres at bay was working herself into exhaustion. Therefore, it was safe to say that Headmistress McGonagall, who did not suffer fools gladly, was not happy by the time she made her appearance at the Ministry. To add insult to her injury, she had to cool her heels for a bit, well more than just a bit, with all her assorted ghosts until she had reached the point where she was about to leave with a caustic comment of her time being valuable also. That was when she was motioned in. Minister Shacklebolt's office was done in subdued colours and there was parchment everywhere. He was instructing five assistants at the same time and that done; he then took a seat in his chair. Even though he had the vigour of youth, it appeared that he wasn't having an easy time being Minister.
It was an unkind thought, but she was not feeling charitable as the two of them had gone head to head on the budgeting for repairs, which Kingsley, deciding that with both Minerva and Filius on staff, she didn't need as much funding as she had requested. The budget for rebuilding Magical England was limited and between the two of them, they could Transfigure, Transform and Charm the school back to form!
The other times they met before at various Ministry functions, Kingsley was civil, perfunctory polite. A courteous greeting and then Kingsley would immediately vacate her presence. Well, there would be no easy egress today, as he had called this meeting.
"Mother sent this," advised Percy Weasley as he handed the Minister a heavily laden tray. "She says you need to eat. I am also to ensure that you eat every bite."
"Percy..." protested Kingsley.
"You may be the Minister of Magic, but even you cannot defeat my mother when she has set her mind on something. You were already here when I arrived this morning at five, and I'm not even sure if you left the office last night. "
"Percy, I'm concerned about you being here at five. Don't you think you should spend some time with Audrey? Anyway, leave it on the desk; I'll eat it before my next meeting. Though perhaps I may have it afterwards, I would certainly hate to meet the Hogwarts Headmistress with parsley in my teeth," explained Kingsley. "Wouldn't be proper to appear un-groomed in front of Professor McGonagall. I fear she may give me lines or a tongue lashing."
"No, it wouldn't be proper, indeed," Minerva inserted. "Though considering I've been waiting here for two hours, I'm glad you decided to eat later."
"Percy," Kingsley announced as he made a shooing motion to his assistance. "Tell your mother, thank you. Take a seat, Minerva, we have a problem. We need to get it sorted in five minutes before my next appointment."
"So glad you could spare the time," Minerva retorted. "I can come back when you're less busy. Perhaps after Hogwarts reopens."
"You caused this issue, Headmistress, and you're staying for my next appointment," was Kingsley's retort. He sighed and then rubbed his temples. "Actually, a crazy egomaniac created this mess, you're just getting blamed."
He pointed to a stack of parchment haphazardly perched on a chair.
"That stack of parchment over there... is full of the outraged protestations of the parents of your current Slytherin House members. They feel that you put their little darlings in harm's way by sending them to the dungeons during the midst of the battle at Hogwarts. I've politely reminded them that as a proud product of the Slytherin House, I know that there is an escape route to Hogsmeade which enabled their precious little bundles to make their escape. In fact, I told them that they should be grateful that you showed that much compassion to allow them to escape. That other stack of parchment is from the parents of Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff complaining about how their children were involved in the battle."
"Ravenclaws have a distressing tendency of verbally skewering their victims. Tell me, why weren't you Ravenclaw?"
She refused to acknowledge his barb; instead she pointed at a much smaller, neatly organized pile.
"And that?" Minerva asked.
"The Muggle parents who lost their children at Hogwarts. I am meeting with Dennis Creevey's parents tomorrow, to once again attempt to convince them to let Dennis attend Hogwarts next term. He may do something rash, I fear. I make an effort to respond to their mail on the same day I receive it."
"Here's the plan, when we meet with the parents, keep your Ravenclaw tongue checked and your Gryffindor claws retracted. I need to convince these people to send their children to Hogwarts, because I worry that they might create a separate school where I won't be able to keep an eye on the curriculum."
That got Minerva's Ravenclaw hackles up; like HELL was she letting the Ministry involve themselves with the curriculum at Hogwarts.
"Hackles down," Kingsley calmly stated. "I think I can trust you not to promote the idea that Muggles are animals. Damn it, they're here already, so that means no lunch."
With an easy grace, he gestured and the food disappeared.
"Remember, behave." At her indignant look, he gave her a pointed jab. "I have first-hand experience of your Ravenclaw tongue."
"Minister..." she said. Then in a softer tone, as she'd admit that perhaps his comment was not undeserved, and that she had sounded like a boarding school teacher intent on chastising her student. "Kingsley..."
A slight quirk of a smile, "So someone remembers my name."
The meeting went about as well as Minerva had anticipated. In other words, the Slytherin families whinged and moaned about her being in charge of the school. The Minister allowed them their say, pulling them up short when they went far beyond what he deemed to be the bounds of proper behaviour. Minerva would have pulled them up short long before then, but they needed to spew their poison.
Though it was unnerving, truly it was, to hear them voice their concerns about the littlest issues, until they were blown past any sense of proportion.
"Thank you, Mrs. Goyle," Kingsley finally stated after Gregory Goyle's mother repeated the harrowing-you-had-to- be- there-to -actually- believe- that- her- precious- bundle- of- joy- had- been- turned- into- a- slug. "I'm sure that we can chalk that up to boys being boys. I understand that it was quite upsetting to see a very large slug ooze off the train when you were expecting your son. Truly you must admit that you cannot blame her. Especially as Headmistress McGonagall was not on the train; along with her not being in the position of Headmistress, it can only be assumed that Albus Dumbledore was ultimately responsible."
"Well, he's dead!" Mrs. Goyle stated in the most brutal, tactless way imaginable.
"I know. I recovered his body," Kingsley firmly retorted.
That ended the conversation cold, for which Minerva was eternally grateful.
The various Slytherins were escorted from the room and Minister Shacklebolt firmly closed the door behind them. He leaned his head firmly against it and quietly stated, "Bloody shame that someone didn't throw salt on Goyle the Slug."
Minerva permitted herself a slight twitter.
"Tomorrow, I shall make a universal proclamation that henceforth the Hogwarts Express shall have large containers of salt made available for students. Regardless of House Affiliation."
That announcement was made in a tone that sounded suspiciously like the very puerile Pius Thicknesse, so Minerva laughed. Out loud. Before she could stop it, a loud, uncontrollable cackle of laughter escaped her. Kingsley's confused expression made her laugh even harder, and she couldn't cease laughing. Really, after all the horrors of the last few years, Mrs. Goyle was focused on the fact that her son had been turned into a SLUG? Minerva laughed like she hadn't laughed in years, since Cedric Diggory had died and to her horror, she couldn't stop.
She started weeping then, her emotional walls made of strong Scottish stone crumbing as she permitted herself to properly express her anger and grief over far too many senseless deaths. Really, it would have been delightful to be so self-absorbed that her main concern was that her son had been turned into a SLUG? To her surprise, Kingsley said not a word; instead he sat next to her, and hesitantly put his arm around her, permitting her to cry until she was utterly empty.
The Dragon Lady was sobbing, and Kingsley Shacklebolt didn't know what to do. One time, when he was younger and the weight of the world wasn't on his weary shoulders, he might have known what was required. No such luck now. So he sat down, and he let her cry on his shoulder until he was quite utterly damp.
Not very ministerial like.
It was unnerving, for Kingsley, to see the Stoic Scot of his Hogwarts Nightmares Scriking.
It was even more unnerving when Kingsley realized that the two of them were kissing.
Alfie the House Elf was quivering in his excitement. Today, for the very first time, he was allowed to prepare the Minister's morning cuppa. He nodded his head as he dutifully repeated his instructions to Lettie the Head Elf, how not to disturb the Minister as he would be awake and reading when Alfie arrived. Proper House Elves would have the tea ready before the Minster woke, but the current Minister had told them not to show up in his quarters before the clock struck four. That been quickly amended to them not showing up until the clock stopped sounding the hour. He carefully took the tray into the Minister's bedroom.
He nearly squeaked and dropped the tray when he realized that the Minister wasn't awake and he wasn't alone! No, there was a lady in the bed and they had done the innie-outie!
Fortunately, he managed to prevent himself from squeaking out loud as he didn't wish to wake them. Not when the Minister was actually sleeping! Quickly, as Lettie would want details, he set up the warming spell just so, cleaned and pressed both their clothes before hanging them but he could not! Could not! Touch ladies' pants. That was only for female House Elves!
Alfie happily bounced away after ensuring that the Minister and the lady were covered with blankets. He had so much to tell Lettie!
The next morning found Minerva waking, alone, in the Minister of Magic's emperor sized bed. There was a pleasant ache that confirmed that she, yes, in fact, had played co-ed naked Gobstones with Kingsley Shacklebolt... all night long. Her clothes were hanging neatly nearby. Her outerwear had been cleaned, pressed and sorted while her scanties were neatly folded on a chair. Apparently, Kingsley thought that cleaning scanties was best left to the owner.
Good thing too, as he'd probably starch them.
There was a pot of tea on the table next to the chair.
It was rather quiet in Kingsley's bedroom, except for the soft tick tick of the clock, so she turned to face it. To her horror there was a picture of Alastor Moody on the nightstand, and he was shaking his head in mock disapproval. Then, he gave her a lewd wink and blew her a kiss.
"Shut it," she snapped, as she slapped his photograph face down. She sat up and realized that she had been a trifle too over exuberant as she could feel it, in her hips and back. Minerva also had the horrible realization that it was also almost eight in the morning, which meant that she had almost missed breakfast in the Great Hall. It would never ever do! So that is why she grabbed her clothes and Disapparated back to her quarters at Hogwarts.
Because the Headmistress of Hogwarts should not miss breakfast.
It wasn't because she was doing the Disapparation of Disgrace.
Lettie the Head House Elf listened intently to Alfie, how the Minister's lady had left without so much as a cuppa! Really, Mr. Minister's bed would remain lonely if Lettie didn't intervene. She went to the Minister's chambers, twitched her ears for a few moments, pondered the situation and then went with all haste to the Minister's Gardens. With some gentle magical encouragements, she had blooms suitable for post-trysting. Then she gave them to Alfie to deliver.
Minerva McGonagall was nervy as a long tail cat in a house full of rocking chairs. She had returned back to her quarters, refused to confess to the inquisitive portraits where exactly she had spent the previous night, changed her clothes and appeared just in time for breakfast. She was just enjoying her cuppa when there was a soft pop and a young House Elf appeared in the Great Hall. He was wearing the Ministry livery and he was carrying... no... no...no... a large bouquet of arums and green dragons. The House Elf skipped... skipped... SKIPPED... happily to where she was sitting, presented her the bouquet and then disappeared.
"A bouquet of Green dragons," Filius stated in what could only be a considering tone.
"Arums also," added Horace Slughorn. "Delivered by a Ministry clad House Elf."
"And I detect the faintest whiff of coriander," added Pomona.
"Actually considering there are eight Birds of Paradise, it means you had ..." crowed Rolanda.
"It means one thing - that you'll be terminated if you continue this conversation in front of the staff," Minerva hissed.
"I thought your back was bothering you earlier today," Poppy stated.
"No!" the oblivious Hagrid had finally figured out the bouquet represented, sex, sex and more sex in the language of flowers. "No!" He announced once more in a soft whisper, which meant he was louder than a dragon's roar. "You take that back. The Headmistress is a proper lady."
Well, the proper lady known as the Headmistress actually wished to Disillusion herself and retreat to her quarters. Instead, with a modicum of pride, combined with her stiff Scottish reserve, (very well - her stiff back), she took the bouquet of flowers and stormed away. Once out of the Great Hall, she handed the flowers to the closest House Elf and requested that they do something with them.
"Do something" with the flowers consisted of putting them on her desk in a very nice vase. Which caused no end of acerbic comments from the dynamic duo Dumbledore and Snape.
"Minerva, what a lovely display of flowers," Dumbledore announced, leading to the perfect set up for Severus Snape's unwanted wit.
"Coriander combined with Arum and Green Dragon. Minerva, Mineva, Minerva...delivered by a Minstry Elf," Severus began. "Apparently you were magnificently insatiable, detailed by the number of Birds of Paradise. I do believe that correlates to the number of...org..."
"Don't," Minerva said. "Just, please, don't. I beg you."
For additional support, she reached for the necklace she always wore - the one that had her and Finn's wedding ring set along with two gold rings that she and Amelia had worn.
To Minerva's horror, she wasn't wearing it.
Because she had left it in Kingsley's bed.
She put her head down on the desk and just wished for silence. She didn't wish to be reminded that arum, green dragon and coriander represented sex and lust. Nor that the number of Bird of Paradises was a direct one to one relationship to how many orgasms she and Kingsley had experienced. Most importantly, she didn't want to even consider the fact that she'd have to face Kingsley Shacklebolt and request her wedding rings back.
For a wonder, there was complete, blessed silence as she let herself cry.
Sex with Kingsley. What the hell was she thinking? It had taken six years to proceed to that level with Amelia, two decades with Finn and now... Kingsley. A crying jag and she was flat on her back with her legs spread wide. After her last tear was shed, a familiar voice spoke from Albus' portrait. No, no, no. She just couldn't deal with anyone, especially him.
"Minerva? Albus came and got the two of us," Finn stated.
"It's just us, as Severus ordered everyone to leave, threatened to burn their portraits if they didn't," Amelia explained. "Whatever is the matter, love?"
She just shook her head and refused to answer.
Kingsley Shacklebolt returned to the scene of the crime. As it was close to nine, he had assumed correctly that Minerva would have left. He noticed that she hadn't any tea, breakfast was untouched, Alastor's picture was face down and she had left her necklace on the nightstand. The necklace caught his eye as there were two sets of matching gold rings and a diamond solitaire.
She had taken the necklace off after he had ensured her climax a second time, before he had taken his own enjoyment...
All in all, the signs were there that this would be an incredibly awkward morning after, because Minerva McGonagall had waked and immediately fled for the hills.
Flowers should be sent.
Nice, pleasant, respectful flowers. Tulips were nice. Tulips were good. Tulips were respectable flowers. Maybe a dozen in Gryffindor colours.
"You sent flowers already?" Kingsley asked Lettie, the Head House Elf.
She eagerly nodded her head, anxious to prove to Kingsley how well she had handled the situation. Dimly, Kingsley remembered early on allowing her to handle the social niceties that his position required. And it was an old war injury, not a case of the nerves which caused him to collapse into his chair when he heard WHAT flowers Lettie had sent.
And eight Birds of Paradise. He was glad that he was dark skinned as he hoped Lettie didn't realize he was blushing. How did the House Elf know that number? If it wasn't a lucky guess on her part, hopefully the House Elf would approve that he had ensured that Minerva had the majority of orgasms.
"Lettie do bad?" The House Elf asked. Her big brown eyes filled with tears and her ears went down.
"You did everything perfectly," he lied, as he couldn't endure a hysterical House Elf, not right now. "Please cancel my appointments for today; I must visit Hogwarts."
Lettie's all too knowing smile looked suspiciously like Alastor's smile – except the House Elf had all her teeth.
"King Master speaking with his lady friend?" Lettie asked. "Lettie ensure special meal tonight."
She nodded happily and the little House Elves began all nodding happily. A few were even dancing in their excitement that the Minister had a lady friend. It seemed that House Elves believed that an unmarried Minister of Magic was an high crime against nature that needed to be immediately rectified.
"I'll let you know," Kingsley decided after a long pause. "I may have a meeting tonight."
Or the Dragon Lady might decide to Hex him
As he feared, Kingsley was refused permission to speak with Minerva McGonagall.
"The Headmistress is in a meeting, and simply cannot be disturbed." "The Headmistress is unsure when the meeting will be concluded so she'll let you know."
Therefore, Kingsley didn't fight fair. He sat in the sitting room and accepted the cuppa that Filius had only, out of an ingrained sense of politeness, had offered while messages were sent to the Headmistress. After her repeated protestations that she was simply too busy to see him, Kingsley agreed to the mere possibility of scheduling a meeting ... perhaps after school reconvened. His easy acquiescence caused Filius' eyebrow to hit his hairline. Before Filius could compose his features, Kingsley decided that he wished to visit the Hall of Heroes.
"Now, I'm sure you don't wish to bother the Headmistress with me wishing to see how the portraits are coming along?"
It was dangerous to attempt to outfox Filius Flitwick whose mind was sharper than Albus. Unlike Albus, who Kingsely truly respected and feared perhaps a little bit, Filius Flitwick's biggest fault was that he was too compassionate.
"You don't need to escort me, Filius," Kingsley offered.
"It's perhaps better that I don't," agreed Filius. In a softer tone, he asked "What exactly happened between you two last night? Leave out the lurid boy – girl stuff. I can read the language of flowers as well as I read Gooblygook."
"Our grief for our losses overwhelmed our good senses," Kingsley offered. "I fear the Headmistress bitterly regrets last night."
"And you?" prompted Filius.
"My only regret is that it appears to have put a further strain on our ... association. I had hoped that she had some enjoyment from my touch..." In a far softer tone, Kingsley admitted to Minerva doing a bunk and leaving behind her wedding rings in her haste to leave his quarters.
Filius pondered what Kingsley said and most importantly what he didn't say, and then finally spoke. "I would offer to take her wedding rings to her, but I fear that it would embarrass her still further. Damn Presbyterian Scots, they're just such sticklers for decorum. If you hope for assistance from the portraits, Elphinstone Urquart is your best ally. The others are all Albus Dumbledore's through and through, but not Finn. He's his own man."
"Talking to her late husband?" Kingsley repeated.
"Is your best bet."
Finn had suggested that Minerva speak with Amelia about what was obviously bothering her.
"She is your closest friend," Finn had explained. "You can speak freely with her. I'll walk around the castle to ensure that no one has decided to slack off in their duties as the Headmistress is taking a holiday. I worry about the Weasleys rebuilding Gryffindor tower. William has good sense but Charles keeps sneaking in a dragon motif on the curtains."
"No," Minerva had weakly protested. After everything that had happened, she didn't wish Finn to think that she no longer loved him. That after replacing him with Amelia, that fickle Minerva had replaced them both with Kingsley Shacklebolt.
And that she had left their rings in his bed!
"You need hen talk, Minerva. Love you, be back soon," Finn offered.
He left his portrait frame empty and Amelia soon appeared in hers with a small jigger of single malt to match the one Minerva had poured for herself.
"I've never seen you in such a state, Minerva," was all Amelia said. "Tell me whatever is the matter and I will absolve you."
"I fear to lose your sweet and kind regard," Minerva admitted.
"What a load of shite," Amelia replied. "Spill it, Minerva."
Therefore Minerva told her everything.
Kingsley Shacklebolt walked into Hall of Heroes and noticed that all the portraits were empty. Even Alastor's, which meant that Albus Dumbledore had gotten to him first.
"I wish to speak with Elphinstone Urquart," he announced. Kingsley Shacklebolt felt like a daft prat talking an empty hall.
Someone entered a portrait. He was tall and slender, with greying hair and sharp brown eyes. There were laugh lines around his eyes, but he appeared quite stern.
"Are you the one that sent my wife that rather brazen display of flowers?" The portrait who could only be Elphinstone Urquart demanded. "Everyone is talking about them and what they represent. A true gentleman would not have been so ostentatious. For Minerva, her reputation is everything."
There was a loud disagreement from one of the formerly empty frames. It seemed that the Order, off-portrait, was attempting to restrain Alastor Moody from hexing Elphinstone's portrait into the Cubism style.
Kingsley sighed and admitted that Elphinstone was quite correct.
"Alastor, please don't hex Elphinstone's portrait. He's correct, a true gentleman would have preferred to send tulips but his House Elf decided to go big. Elphinstone, I must speak to her. Today."
"I know Alastor, however I don't know you," Minerva's husband informed Kingsley. "Your intentions are...?"
"Honourable!" That was Alastor's roar.
"I would like to hear it from him, Alastor," was the mild retort.
"Honourable and I must return something to her," Kingsley whispered. "It must be done today."
Elphinstone tapped his neck in what only could be a meaningful way, and Kingsley nodded.
"Kingsley, since Alastor arrived in the castle, I have spent many a pleasant hour playing Go with him. Are you familiar with the game?" That was the next volley from Urquart.
"Yes," Kingsley asked. He was utterly perplexed.
"Minerva and I played it when we were married. Perhaps, you could play a game with her every now and then? And remind her about the Ko rule, where players are not allowed to make a move that returns the game to the previous position. That means, I'm telling her that she can't pretend that this didn't happen between you two. I'll return back to her quarters and let her know that you'll be there in a few minutes. Part of the reason Minerva is reacting so badly is because she's physically and emotionally exhausted. She just doesn't have the vigour to emotionally process this latest event, so she's gone to ground."
"Not because I'm a former student?"
"Well, that also." Elphinstone smiled; it was a warm smile with dimples. "Minerva prefers to be the younger one in the relationship."
Minerva told Amelia the entire sordid story. For a wonder, Amelia said nothing until the very end. Instead of speaking, she smoked a fag as she was digesting recent events.
"You're exhausted," Finn announced from his portrait. "Since you two were talking woman to woman, I took the liberty to speak with Kingsley. He's outside the door right now and you need to talk to him. He has your necklace so let him in."
"You spoke to him?" Minerva's voice broke. "You noticed that I wasn't wearing the necklace?"
"Man to man. I wished to determine what type of man would send such a brazen bouquet of blooms. It seemed he wished to send a small sensible spray but his House Elves took it upon themselves."
"I look a fright," protested Minerva - what with her red eyes and wild hair.
"Sooner he's in, the sooner he leaves," announced Amelia. "Finn, you and I must go now. I think Minerva will want some privacy."
The painted betrayers left and at too soon, Kingsley was in her sitting room. He refused her offer of tea, instead he just handed her the necklace.
"Thank you, Minister," was all she could say as he helped her put it around her neck. Her hands were shaking so badly that she couldn't connect the clasp.
"Minister? I'm back to be Minister? I supposed it could be worse, you could be calling me Mr. Shacklebolt," he gently protested. "After last night, I would hope you would feel comfortable using my first name. If not in public, then in private. Else you're violating the rule of Ko."
"Ko?" Minerva repeated.
"I understand that you're quite the player. We can't close the door on what happened between us, pretend it didn't happen. Unless you have a complaint with my technique?" Kingsley gave her a slight smile before he continued, "Then by all means, please forget as soon as possible."
Minerva sat down then and Kingsley sat down next to her. Slowly, while watching her reaction, he put his arm around her.
"No, you were ... lovely and sweet, and wonderfully attentive. It's just... it's not something I normally do," explained Minerva.
"I can assure you that I don't drop my robes for just anyone," insisted Kingsley. "Both of us were grieving yesterday and it happened. The question is... what now?"
"I don't know," she admitted.
"Well, that's a start. It's better than locking yourself into your quarters and never leaving. Though, recently, I have found the thought tempting at times."
They sat in silence for a bit and then Kingsley noticed the display of flowers. He sat up and stared at them in horrified fascination. It covered half her desk easily and blocked most of the sun from one window.
"That monstrosity is what they sent?" He whispered as though fearful a loud noise would cause the colossus to fall and wipe out the Ravenclaw tower.
"Enthusiastic, aren't they? Darn shame that they haven't managed the concept of understated restraint."
That comment made her laugh and Kingsley gave her a warm smile.
"We will rebuild modern magical England, Minerva. We might make some mistakes along the way, but we'll do our best. That's all we can hope, that we make it better than it was before," Kingsley assured her.
And Minerva smiled, as she knew that he wasn't just talking about England. He was talking about whatever this new relationship was between them. She reached for his hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.