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Elphinstone Urquart set the pace. The night he kissed her goodnight, a sense of euphoria filled him, followed by dread, and this led to despair and a sense of hope. A cup of hot cocoa or hot chocolate ended on a good note, yet he didn't what this meant. Did it happen? Did it not happen? And in the sense nothing happened on the doorstep, how exactly was he supposed to act around this girl? Minerva McGonagall wasn't a girl, strictly speaking, and she held her own in an argument. If she wasn't working at the Ministry any longer, perhaps they'd never see each other again, and he could erase this from his memory.


But he couldn't. Sleep evaded him, taunted him, really, so the bedroom aggravated him and he lay awake for hours. Of course, the alarm clock reminded him only minutes passed. Embarrassment paralyzed him. This girl toyed with him. Elphinstone kept his personal and his professional life separate because things got complicated with unnecessary drama; a demanding law career needed a healthy release to keep him sane. She'd started teaching at Hogwarts in mid-December, a mere five days ago, so he technically should not have drawn her back in by inviting her to the Christmas party.


Someone knocked on the door. Still in his clothes, Elphinstone got up and went to answer it. Who could come calling at this hour? Minerva stood there for a fraction of a second, turned and decided against it. Elphinstone knew he crossed the line here; he invited her in with a boring line when she showed him the spare key and patted her neck, even though no hair fell out of place. She bit her lower lip, hesitant and uncertain, and he found this enduring.

"Your key." Minerva held it out and sat on the leather couch. He told her to keep it, and she set it on the polished coffee table. Elphinstone pointed his wand at the grate and flames erupted there. Tomorrow, today actually, was Saturday morning, so neither of them had work tomorrow. She placed one foot behind the other, self-conscious, and said yes to a drink when he offered her one. "This is the house on Napier Street."


"This is it." Elphinstone used his house in a handful of examples for the law students he trained at the Ministry. She nodded, commenting on the cleanliness. Elphinstone chuckled, admitting real estate stayed on the straight and narrow, so he rather enjoyed his will, trusts and estates as his true speciality. The decanter on the cabinet poured two generous drinks and floated over to them after he performed simple magic, and he grabbed something to nibble on. "You came all this way to return a house key?" "Yes," she said evasively, pretending to fix her shoe.


Elphinstone swirled his glass and relaxed when she caught hers. "You've never had a drink before."


Minerva shook her head. Elphinstone flicked his wand at the glass and transfigured it into a fizzy drink. Whenever she got around to it, and it wasn't going to be tonight or this morning, he instructed her to take a deep breath in and down the whole drink in one. It stung a little, but it reminded him of taking a vile potion.


She nodded. "Mr. Urquart."


Her lips, her soft features, made him lose all concentration, and Elphinstone got a jolt at hearing his name. He said she looked nice in her midnight blue robes, and she said his name again, a little flushed.


Elphinstone reached out and caressed her cheek with the back of his hand. "May I kiss you?" He ought to have asked her this same question on her doorstep. Minerva nodded. Elphinstone smiled, expecting a no. He decided against it, pulling away last minute when she inclined her head. He liked this girl, really liked her, yet she was a reverend's daughter. They swapped stories and fell into a natural rhythm. She did not act like a young woman, something he'd mistaken earlier this evening, for she acted well beyond her years.


Elphinstone drained his glass and flipped it over on the coffee table. Minerva raised her eyebrows in surprise at the practiced move. "The barman at the Three Broomsticks? Dirk Bode? He taught me a handful of things I probably shouldn't know."


"Why?"


Elphinstone fished his smokes and a cigarette lighter out of his pocket. He placed one in between his teeth and shook the parcel at her, offering her one, though he expected her to turn him down. She did the right thing. He lit one and took a long drag. "My father, Silas, turned to drink when my mother died."


"I'm sorry."


"Life happens." Elphinstone tapped the cigarette on his ashtray and shrugged off his comment. "You're Scottish. You get my jokes and you laugh at them … you don't have to. Where are you from?"


"Caithness," she said, leaning back on the couch and leaving her drink on the table. "You?"


"Stirling. Though I've lived in London since I was eighteen." He snorted when she said he sounded like it, but he swung between English until the brogue slipped in after a while. Elphinstone said he got this a lot from clients. Before they knew it, it was seven in the morning. "Well, you better get going, Professor McGonagall."


Before he said goodbye, she kissed him with the boldness of a Gryffindor, soft at first and more insistent. Elphinstone rested a hand on the small of her back and kissed her back. One kiss led to another, and Elphinstone moaned when she pressed him up against the wall. Instead of taking things deeper, he held up his hands.


"I should go," she said softly. Elphinstone, nodded, struck dumb, and took a blue traveling cloak off his coat rack. Minerva draped the cloak over her arm and left after calling him Mr. Urquart again and thanking him for a pleasant evening.


Exhausted and exhilarated, Elphinstone collapsed into the couch, completely taken by some Scottish girl. At thirty-eight, he'd fallen for some novice Transfiguration teacher who probably didn't think twice about what happened her. Her confidence, despite her plain looks, drew him in and intoxicated him. What was he doing? Elphinstone buried his face in his hands. He saw the plain young woman with the tight bun and tried to forget this evening and this morning ever happened. He'd have a better shot of cutting off his left arm. Forget sleep.



 

He lost a lot of sleep over this girl, and Elphinstone carried on an all too familiar relationship with insomnia. Some part of him blamed the generation gap for this negative connotation, for a part of him knew she hated it. A staunch feminist, Minerva took a stance and held onto her beliefs for dear life. A stereotype labelled people. Instead of thinking she portrayed one of those people who beat Jesus into people and carried the Bible anywhere and everywhere, Elphinstone kept his judgments and assumptions off the table.


An employee turned into a friend, and for now, he liked the direction their relationship headed; his head reasoned well, but his heart yearned for more. A generation, almost twenty years, separated them. She went on to be a talented, invaluable asset to the Hogwarts staff and she didn't look back. People often viewed London under the influence of a Cheering Charm, the rosy-eyed effect, or they adapted to it, or some of them ran from the city screaming. Minerva swore she simply left.


The day Elphinstone saw her flipping through her Bible, he half-expected it to resemble one those secret stashes with the pages cut out. "Do smugglers do that?"

"Sometimes. Well, no, nobody needs to hide out in the open." Minerva missed the first half of this conversation or statement, yet she'd cottoned on to the last bit. She asked him to sit across from her and counted out Muggle money like a skilled teller or a goblin handling a vault. She counted twice, the second time out loud, and stashed bills into an envelope and slid it over to him. "My father hides money in pew, the third row in the left, to keep it from parishioners' prying eyes, but you did not hear this from me. They call him a squirrelly man."

"Why? Oh, because he stashes stuff, yes," said Elphinstone, catching on a few moments later. Religion and faith stood out in his mind as polar opposites. Religion held no place for him. He stayed faithful to his people and those around him. The more he learned and saw of Minerva, she shied away from her family whilst holding onto the important bits and shifted into her own person. A month passed since the Christmas party.


"You stash money in your Bible." Elphinstone accepted an ice-cream float from the overweight proprietor, Madam Puddifoot, and drummed his fingers on the table. Delighted in the small details she dropped here and there, he nudged her further. "Does your father know?"


Minerva narrowed her eyes for a moment and turned the Bible towards him, turning to the front cover. Someone had scrawled something there in a narrow script.


"'Whenever we fear the light or the night, it helps to remember we are never alone, Robert. Left or right? It's your choice.'" Elphinstone read the inscription, surprised it wasn't scripture copied from the text. Next moment, Minerva turned to a passage in Jeremiah and indicated a grayscale photograph of a thin man, the Reverend McGonagall, Elphinstone guessed, reading a book to a chubby little girl. "That's you."


Minerva closed the book and rested her hands on it. She addressed the envelope to Benjy Fenwick and reached out to take Elphinstone's hand. They said nothing for a while and fell into a comfortable silence. Elphinstone played with a jewelry box in his pocket and rallied the courage for a step he hadn't fell like taking today.


Elphinstone threw out this question as a mere distraction. "When's your father's birthday?"


"February 29, 1916."


Elphinstone choked on his treat and took a moment to compose himself. This was his birthday! He got up, probably making her panic, and for whatever reason, he decided it was now or never. The moment he got on one knee, he regretted making this move because panic and surprise etched itself onto her features. As a child, Elphinstone had stammered his way through the simplest sentences, and the crutch popped up at an inconvenient time. Completely taken off his guard, Elphinstone imagined himself as a pudgy little boy.


I … I love you … and I want to spend the rest of my life … my life with … with someone … I love you." Elphinstone, ashamed and humiliated, got to his feet and dashed from the teashop without another word. The words, simple phrases, played back in his mind like feedback from a microphone. A practiced, seasoned lawyer, he'd reduced himself to nothing over a mere coincidence.


"Mr. Urquart? Mr. Urquart! Elphinstone." Minerva sighed, relieved when he turned around to face her. A blind man could see her answer. In truth, he told her much more than she'd shared with him. Minerva apparently shrugged it off and decided to pretend what just took place did not happen. She slipped her hand into his, interlocking their fingers. She'd never seen him falter before in anything, and whilst he found it rather embarrassing, Elphinstone saw this as a good thing. Minerva left him on the curb outside of Honeydukes and offered him dark chocolate raspberry sweets. "Are you waiting for me to say something, so you'll say something, and someone will cry and we'll bond?"


"No." Elphinstone rather admired the reserved roles here. What had he missed here? "These are my favorite." "I pay attention." Minerva opened her hand and thanked him for a chocolate. He asked her if she wished to hear a funny story and popped a chocolate into his mouth. "Please."


"When I finally returned home to Stirling for Christmas in 1935, my grandmother did not know what a weekend was." Elphinstone enjoyed Minerva's expression as she tried to piece this together. "I told her, you know, and she called me a layman."


"What?" Minerva held him close and patted his arm. Elphinstone worked like a dog to get his billable hours during the week, but he lived for weekend and holidays because he kept himself in balance. Elphinstone relaxed when she rested her head on his chest. "You're a good man."


"Thank you." Elphinstone bit back telling her he loved her.


On the surface, this seemed so simple, and he'd made a move without reading the room; he'd paid for it. He wanted to tell her he wanted a small house with two children, maybe three; he'd settle for one or none. Of course, if he said these things, she'd run off screaming and never look back. Wise beyond her years, Minerva challenged him, supported him, and argued fiercely with him in the same conversation.


"I embarrassed you." He circled back to the teashop.


"No."


"Lying to a lawyer isn't a good idea." He placed the lid on the chocolates and stowed them inside his jacket. She said it wasn't him, and the hurtful line hurt him like a dagger. If she needed time, he stayed a patient man. Elphinstone got to his feet, walked a short distance and Disapparated.



Elphinstone kept making the same mistakes, and she turned him down every time. The night Joss Phelps died, a law student a man Elphinstone adopted into his family, for he'd crafted that young man into a respected partner out of nothing, he sat up with Minerva and those in his close circle and planned a funeral. A few days later, he stood with Benjy Fenwick, a few people he didn't know, Minerva McGonagall, Stephen and Josiah Talbot, and Amelia Bones. As they distributed the weight, Elphinstone's longtime friend and legal secretary, Catherine Crouch left the crowd and stood in between the Talbot brothers and took her place despite objections she wasn't a lawyer in the group; she'd been certified as a lawyer before her husband made the executive decision and pulled her out of the game. She wore her blonde hair back on a braided bun and pretended not to see her husband.


Whether this was a conscious decision or not, the women mirrored each other in black silk dresses and pinned their hair back in the same style, and the men wore casual black suits. Joss came from a family of Muggles, and despite Barty Crouch's objections that women shouldn't carry the casket in the procession, Amelia Bones dared him to challenge her. Barty apparently considered carrying a dead man, a former adversary in the courtroom, beneath him. Elphinstone wondered which mourners bought the story about Joss succumbing to congenial heart failure; he'd been kicked to death outside of Fenwick & Phelps, Attorneys at Law.


"Well played, Elphinstone." Minerva didn't turn her head as the pallbearers joined the crowd shrouded in black suits and robes. Barty Crouch stood among strangers and silently raged at his wife, and Catherine pretended he wasn't there.


"I'm done playing bowing down to the establishment," said Elphinstone, his skin crawling for a cigarette. He'd been off cigarettes for six long days now, so he'd picked the wrong time to drop the habit; it happened before, of course, but he always went back to nicotine and other poisons like a old lover. The longest he'd lasted, nine years ago, had been seven months and sixteen years. "Catherine's my work wife."

Amelia Bones, momentarily snapping out of her grief, jerked her head and snorted. Elphinstone, completely unabashed, shrugged this off. Joss Phelps, he remembered, handed this label, and Elphinstone intended to honor it like the real thing. A year and a half ago, they'd all attended the wedding of Amelia and Benjy; this felt bizarre. Amelia was pregnant, though she'd refused not to carry Joss. After the funeral, they stood together until Minerva pulled Elphinstone off to the side as black cars drove off.


"I'm fine." Elphinstone fought the urge to claw his skin.


"Mr. Urquart, I've known you for twenty years, so let's not play this game." Minerva reached inside his jacket, found a lighter and a parcel of cigarettes. She took one out of the box, stuck it between his teeth, and lit it. The moment he took a drag, Elphinstone relaxed as calm washed over him. He thanked her. "No, thank you."


"Is it that bad?" Elphinstone smiled when she took out another cigarette and hid the stash on him again.


"You told Catherine, Amelia, and me you wanted to skip the funeral last night. You don't remember this?" Minerva, surprised, softened when Elphinstone kissed her; he remembered flashes as they'd cleaned Joss's place last night. A kiss led to something more. Minerva held him, running her fingers through Elphinstone's fair hair. When he asked if they acted inappropriately, she pointed out they shared the worst kept secret. "I love you."


Elphinstone blinked furiously, determined not to lose control of his emotions in front of the Phelps family. Neither of them said anything, though he knew they'd shared more than caresses and promises. Finished with his second cigarette, Elphinstone stamped out his evidence and turned the clock back to day one because he'd stumbled along the path. The gravedigger started his task after he was left alone. The Talbot brothers left with the unnamed pallbearers, and Elphinstone sobbed when the car disappeared.


"You're the rock. What the hell are you crying for, sir?" Benjy marched over to them. Joss had been Benjy's best mate since childhood; he'd stared through a dead mask since he'd found Joss's body; Benjy Fenwick's grief went beyond tears or any outward emotion. He'd given a beautiful eulogy and betrayed nothing, absolutely nothing, except when his voice broke at the end. He nodded, turning to each of them in turn and squeezing Amelia's hand. "Right, I'm saying this once, and we're leaving it there."


"Benjy," said Minerva, letting Elphinstone go.


"No, woman, I'm speaking here. Give me a moment … because I … I put my brother in the ground." Benjy put himself in check when Minerva reminded him coldly she wasn't his wife, and Amelia suggested he recognize he stood among two staunch feminists and one of these women shared his bed.


"You don't want to go there." Amelia tapped her foot.


"Please don't ask me if I'm all right because I'm not. I love … I love Joshua, and he … it's not all right. But I'm here." Benjy nodded, telling them he'd finished.


Catherine squeezed his other hand and rolled her eyes when Benjy congratulated her for putting the honorable Barty Crouch in his place. Barty, furious she'd chosen the other side, had Disapparated in the middle of the service. They walked to a nearby pub, and Benjy, put together again, ordered the first round. The first story tossed around, of course, recounted when Benjy and Joss left the Ministry to open their legal practice. He budged up next to Minerva and answered Catherine's shock when he flipped her off with both hands.


"We answered your husband's threats with a pair of these." Benjy snorted in his stout when Catherine, positively beaming, rested her chin on her hand. He pointed at his wife when the barman asked when he asked when who ordered the cherry soda. "You people notice I abstained when I married Diggory's Jurisprudence, right? Tick, tock."


"Damn straight." Amelia reached across the table and completed a complicated secret handshake. Minerva giggled behind a menu.


"What?" Benjy nudged Minerva playfully. At twenty-nine, he was a decade younger than her and worked his way up the family law division.


"Where did this dose of confidence come from? What happened?"

Minerva commented when folks pushed Benjy against the ropes, he threw his hands up and shielded himself with thick skin. He'd been this sheltered Hufflepuff forever protected by the guise of the baby brother with a handful of sisters. Benjy, age thirty-four, had shed the skin of a mediocre student and made himself into a fighter; he enjoyed the Muggle sport of boxing as a hobby. She nodded when he shrugged and took this answer as good enough.


"Forget this." Benjy got up, rubbed his hands together, played with the wireless, and returned to the table. He offered his left hand to Minerva, who looked confused. After she cottoned on, she said this wouldn't be appropriate. Benjy, of course, couldn't care less and reminded her she'd taken to his confidence. There weren't many Muggles here, and they didn't catch his Sweeping Charm; some tables and chairs lined them up against the table. "Dance with me."


She took his hand, uncertain, and nodded at the barman, and got to her feet. Benjy insisted he'd sit at this table and drink himself into the bottom of the well otherwise. Elphinstone offered his arm to Amelia when his legal secretary turned him down; they settled on a waltz. For a boxer, Benjy knew his ballroom dance, and he'd proven this to all his close friends and dramatic sisters on his wedding day. Elphinstone spared him the embarrassment of looking like a clueless idiot.


Elphinstone learned to dance as a young man at a Muggle dancing school after he needed an escape and his family cut him off. Over the years, he'd shown Minerva a thing or two, and she'd picked things up as a quick learner. When the waltz ended, Elphinstone tuned out the background noise altogether, kissed Amelia's hand, let her go, and turned to Minerva, completely aware of everyone watching them.


When Amelia and Benjy sat down, he slipped into a stance and dared her to turn him down in the middle of nowhere. Minerva took his hand, no longer caught up in whether this was wrong or right. Elphinstone chose a simple tango without telling her and smiled slightly when she fell in line. The onlookers clapped appreciatively and the barman, Elphinstone noticed, let the tap run and forgot his task. Minerva gasped, laughing softly when Elphinstone held her close and dipped her front of a table of young people. Elphinstone smiled, not looking at her as he fell into the next steps and weaved through the tables.


"I'll be damned, the old man knows his stuff," said Benjy, his voice carrying in the small room.


"We all have our secrets," whispered Elphinstone, forever trying to break through Minerva's defenses. He pursued her with less fervor these years because she held onto her past, but he considered hope and faith dangerous things. "I don't care."


"Let's not discuss this, please," said Minerva, dropping her hands when they finished the dance. She took her handbag off the back of a chair and strode outside, ignoring the people at their table. Elphinstone followed her; he never stayed out of her reach. She spun around on her heel, forgetting she didn't know her way around. Furious and exhausted, she breathed sharply through her nostrils and slapped her hands together, dropping the handbag. "How many times? I do not want you. I don't know how to say it anymore … and you keep making these advances. Elphinstone, I love you, but I am not in love with you. You can't … you can't keep doing this to me. Please."


"Last night. You said … I wait for you. You're the hurt one here? This game we play? It's beneath you!" Elphinstone grabbed her arm when she started walking away from him. "I think about you all the time … I can't sleep without hearing your voice my head."


"We buried Joshua today! You cannot stop for … he's dead."


"Joss lived for every moment. If anyone knew or cared we were together, it's those people in there!" Elphinstone jabbed his thumb at the closed door and released her when she demanded he let her go. The excuses, the halting of the conversation whenever she said no, annoyed him to no end because he wasn't in her head. A skilled Leglimens would have a field day playing with this woman. "I've done nothing to you, Professor McGonagall. You dangle hope in front of me like it's nothing, and you snatch it away. You are unfair!"


"You speak of fairness when you know why …. I've shared everything with you about Dougal." She took him by the arm and they Dispparated to Hogsmeade Station. Elphinstone asked for a room in the middle of the day, and she pressed him up against the wall the moment he locked the door; they comforted each other. She caught her breath, stroking him when he unzipped her robes. "We're doing this again?"


"Yeah. I hate that I love you." Elphinstone took his time and cried out when she spun him around, switching places, and dug her heels into his back. They made love. As he fixed his trousers, Elphinstone put her at ease. "Not to worry. I'm sure Joss would be doing the same thing … we do this all the time. Probably more than most married people."


"You're impressed," she noted, raising her eyebrows as she wiped the wrinkles out of her black dress. Minerva caught her breath sat on the edge of the bed. She buried her face in her hands and stifled her gasps as her shoulders shook. At first, Elphinstone pulled a somber expression and waited for her to recover as her breath went in and out. He went over to comfort her, placing a hand on her shoulder. She lowered her hands, apologizing as she burst out laughing. "Joss … Joss died … and the last thing he told me was about a one night stand with a waitress and we're in here …"


Elphinstone roared with laughter. "You're laughing. Did he forget you're a reverend's daughter?" "I know!" Minerva, laughing so hard she cried, leaned into him when he sat down. They settled down, and laid down on the bed before falling asleep in each other's arms. She told him she loved him, and he asked her to say it again, caught between wakefulness and sleep. "I love you."


When Joss died, Elphinstone felt a piece leave him, but when Benjy got murdered and Elphinstone received an owl with his best man's remains scattered in a box, Elphinstone knew he, Elphinstone, changed, because a piece of him died, too. He left at the end of the year in 1981 and closed up shop on New Year's Eve. He left the country and traveled throughout Europe in an effort to forget this war.


He showed up at Hogwarts in a casual suit and spotted her reading papers underneath a tree. As the students had left for the summer holidays, the professors worked at their own pace and leisure. When he showed her a sketch, a drawing of a photograph of the original inner circle, including Benjy, Joss, Catherine, Amelia, himself and Minerva, her face lit up and she went to put it in her office. When she came back outside, she commented on his skill with a quill.


"Was that the photograph we asked the barman to take at the Three Broomsticks?" "The night Amelia called Benjy out for flirting with Catherine," said Elphinstone, offering her arm and starting around the Black Lake. The beautiful Catherine, who kept everyone together over the years, changed from a full figure to skin and bones. Although none of them said it, Barty saw nothing but his delusional power and forgot his wife and son. "She said we divorced last year when I left the Ministry."


"What a shame." Minerva feigned disappointment, though she knew neither Catherine nor Elphinstone could never truly leave each other. She patted his arm sympathetically. "Whatever will you do without your fine lady?"


"Marry someone else, I suppose," he said lightly, shrugging.


Minerva squeezed his hand and answered him with a soft kiss. "Yes." "Of course, I've got see Catherine this afternoon," he said, taking a moment to realize he walked alone. He kissed her back, playing what she'd just said through his mind. Minerva closed the distance between them, reached into his coat, and slipped on her sapphire engagement ring. "This isn't funny." "Oh, we wouldn't want to disappoint Mrs. Crouch, would we?" Minerva squealed when he lifted her off the ground and spun her around. "You're going to throw out your back, sir! Put me down."


"We're getting married," he said, setting her on the ground.


"We're getting married." She hugged him and insisted they did this before Catherine died. Elphinstone said they'd do it today if that's what she wanted, especially if this was her only stipulation. They'd discussed her keeping her name ages ago. Deep down, Elphinstone knew this wasn't about Catherine Crouch in any sense, but he took whatever he could get. Minerva did a double take, pointing out she was kidding. "You're serious?"


"Not getting younger, am I? Tick, tock, as Benjy would say. Come on. Why not?"


Elphinstone waited out for a full five minutes to give her a chance for objections, though she'd relaxed about the Benjy remark, which won her over. Minerva, under the sad delusion she had the upper hand here, gave him the task of throwing this whole thing together; Elphinstone might have left the Ministry, but he knew the right people. She took a bath and he took up the challenge, stepping into the private bathroom to announce he won hands down.


"Amelia asked to officiate, and the Crouchs have agreed to stand as witnesses, will that do? Sorry." Elphinstone spun around and faced the other way to give her privacy.


"Makes you wish Joshua and Benjy were here," she said, turning off the tap with her foot. Elphinstone snuck a peek in the mirror, smiling ruefully, and gave a noncommittal shrug. Minerva's dislike for Mr. Crouch bordered on hatred. Elphinstone, alight with happiness, didn't honestly care if they dragged a homeless man off the street.


"It's not the wedding, it's the marriage." Elphinstone walked over, knelt on the stone floor, reached over to pump shampoo in his hand, and ran his fingers through her hair. She closed her eyes at his touch and drummed her fingers on the bathtub. "You want Catherine? He comes with her. Barty loves her. He doesn't know what he's doing, whatever he's doing …"


"Neglect. Love isn't everything." Seething, Minerva dipped into the water to rinse her hair. She came back up and got out after she pulled the plug. She pulled on midnight blue dress robes and stepped into neutral colored heels. She pumped a hair product in her hand, a spiderweb substance and ran it through her hair. As usual, she went with the tight bun. Elphinstone asked about the hair gel. "Rewind. It's a Muggle hair product. Agnes, Robert's daughter, suggested it."


"The one who collects trinkets? She's strange. Don't get me wrong. I love when she's off." Elphinstone shut up when she advised him to stop whilst he was ahead. Minerva said it was rather strange that a wizard collected stamps and stationary. "Your father does that."

"My father sends letters through the regular post." Minerva finished getting ready and threw her arms around his neck. "Is this all right?"


"You're lovely. You can't lose your temper with Barty Crouch." "The submissive housewife? He already has one of those." Minerva scoffed, putting on her spectacles.


"Minerva."


"Fine, fine, Mr. Urquart, I'll play along and act like I don't know what we all know."


"Which is?" Elphinstone cleared his throat, holding his tongue as they walked through the bedroom and into her office.


"The Catherine you chose, the Catherine you crafted out of nothing, she died after marrying that man. You and I well know about it … all of it. She said yes, and that's on her." Minerva checked her grey handbag and snapped it shut. "Who do you think she is after twenty-five years? That? That's on all of us! And if he drags her into hell…"


Elphinstone fretted over his work wife constantly. He didn't let it show, yet it came out in other ways, and he shared everything with Minerva. He reached up and grabbed a powdery substance out of a small box. After tossing it into the flames, he travelled with her to the Ministry via the Floo Network. They stepped into the Atrium on the other side, and he led her onto the second floor, stopping her before they stepped into Amelia Bones's office.


"I promise to remember you are my best friend and my lover, and I will never leave you," said Elphinstone, caressing her cheek. "I'll love you, especially the things I hate about you, for we share a life together." "I won't go to bed angry with you. I won't leave your side, no matter what, because you … you are the best thing that ever happened me."


Minerva rested her hand on the doorknob and took a deep breath. They had actual vows, actual words to say to each other. Amelia set out the papers on her desk, and they handled the boring paperwork first. Catherine, frail and wispy, sat in a chair and squeezed her husband's hand. Barty Crouch, sporting his perfect part and trimmed mustache, looked odd in his wizarding robes, and he certainly acted like he had better things to do than stand witness.


Amelia stood in front of the desk and opened a black book. She read them lines, and she gave a booming laugh when Minerva pretended not to hear this nonsense about obeying her husband. Out of respect for her father, she'd asked for the Muggle vows.


"Wait. I haven't got a ring," said Minerva, embarrassed.


"It doesn't matter," said Elphinstone patiently and quietly.


"Have you lost your mind?" Minerva's beady eyes narrowed.


Catherine reached in her handbag and offered her a scratched wedding band. "It was my father's. Take it."


Minerva thanked her and placed it on Elphinstone's hand as her fingers trembled. Amelia smiled, enjoying the interruption, and carried on without skipping a beat. When she finished saying her words, Elphinstone leaned in and kissed his bride passionately.




*Here's the quote: #88: "There's a fine line between thinking about somebody and thinking about not thinking about somebody, but I have the patience and the self-control to walk that line for hours - days, if I have to." -A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

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