Aurora fidgeted absentmindedly with the clasp of her bracelet, a dreamy smile gracing her lips. The bracelet was a miniature replica of the solar system with little orbs floating in space. She had gotten the bracelet as a present a couple of months ago. She wore it mostly in the confines of her quarters, afraid someone would recognise its intricate design. She regretted that she could not wear it in public; it was too beautiful to go unnoticed. The bracelet was clearly made to be shown and seen. Maybe next year.
A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts and Minerva's face appeared around the door.
"Can I come in?"
She offered her a seat by the fire, which Minerva graciously accepted. It was nearing Christmas and as usual, the winters at Hogwarts were cold. Aurora had been expecting Minerva's visit, though she did not know to what she owed the honour.
"Would you like some wine?"
"No thanks, not at this hour. Some pumpkin juice would be nice though."
She poured her guest a glass of pumpkin juice and smiled, finally asking the question that had been plaguing her ever since Minerva asked her ifs he could speak with her, in her quarters.
"So, what is it you wanted to see me about?"
Minerva smiled at her warmly. "Is everything alright with you, dear?"
Aurora was startled by the question. "Yes, why are you asking?"
"I don't know. You seemed a bit absent as of lately." She was silent for a moment and took a sip of her pumpkin juice. "Are you sure that nothing is the matter?"
"Positive. Why wouldn't I be?"
"Never mind. I probably read too much into it. It's probably just fatigue then. Merlin knows we're all swamped with work at the moment."
Aurora looked at her curiously. Minerva was never one to admit to fatigue, not when she had been a Transfiguration's teacher, and certainly not since she had become Headmistress. Minerva seemed to never tire. She decided that maybe what she registered was still the aftermath of the battle. She had heard that for some people, it took some more time for grieving to kick in, and Minerva had certainly lost a lot of friends last summer.
"My, where are my manners?" she jumped up. "Would you care for anything to go with that pumpkin juice? I've got some shortbread, or…"
"No, no, I'm fine. Please, don't bother."
On her request, Aurora sat back down again.
"Say, that's a marvellous bracelet you have there. So delicate and detailed. I bet it's handmade. Italian, I'd say?"
Aurora froze in her seat. The question was posed innocently enough, but Aurora knew better. She knows, she thought and her heart hammered in her chest. She knows. It was an accusation more than a question. Yet Aurora tried to smile.
"Could be," she said. "There's probably hundreds of them on the market. Who can tell where mine came from."
"I think that's not true. I dare say this bracelet was crafted especially for you as a gift, am I right?"
"So what if it was a gift?" she said defiantly. "I love the solar system, and it's not a crime to receive a gift, now is it?"
Minerva gave her a piercing look. "You know perfectly well that's not what I mean."
She did know. "He's off age," she protested feebly.
"He's still your student. Damn it, Aurora, where's your common sense?"
Aurora remained silent. There really was no good answer to that question.
"Don't throw away your career for a fling."
"So, that's it then? You came here to give me my one-month's notice?" Her voice was flat, but she was fighting back tears. She loved this job. Oh, she had always known there was a risk, which was why she had been holding him off from September till Halloween, but over the last few months she had started to believe, to hope, that if they could just make it till July, everything would be all right. Apparently she had been wrong and now she would have to face the consequences. But there was one question she needed to ask.
"How did I know? I may be old, but I'm not blind."
"Was it that obvious?" Aurora fell back into her chair. She had thought they'd been ever so careful not to show anything. Guess I was wrong about that too, she thought bitterly.
"Well, I wouldn't say you flaunted it, but…" Minerva hesitated. "Let's just say that I recognise the signs," she concluded.
Her eyes grew big. "You?" she said. "I refuse to believe that." There was no way that stern, playing-by-the-rules Minerva McGonagall would have ever dated a student.
Minerva had the decency to blush. "It was a long time ago," she muttered. "But that's not the point."
"No, the point, I believe, was that you were firing me," Aurora said.
"I'm not firing you, Aurora. That would be a bit hypocritical, would it not, given the circumstances. No, I'm giving you a warning that you shouldn't lose yourself over gifts and flattery. I'm telling you this as a friend. Now it's just me, but it won't be long before others find out as well, and when they do, I'll have no other choice than to put you on probation."
"It took you nearly nine months to find out, so why would others find out sooner? Just because it didn't work out for you, doesn't mean it won't work out for me either." She had said the words before she had thought it through and instantly regretted them.
The look on Minerva's face was one of utter shock. "I see," she said, her lips thin. "It appears my advise falls on deaf ears." She stood up. "There's nothing more I can do here. But when the day comes, don't say I didn't warn you."
She was out of the door before Aurora had had time to blink. She felt a bit guilty. After all, Minerva had only meant well by coming to her quarters and offering her advise. She could just as easily have fired her on the spot.
She decided that she would apologise to Minerva in the morning, when emotions had settled down a bit. And maybe there was some truth in her words; maybe they ought to keep a bit of a low profile, at least until the year was over.
But when the next day Blaise asked her to spend Christmas in Tuscany, all her good intentions melted away like snow in the sun. Something that felt this good, couldn't be bad, now could it?