FIC: "The Cat and the Parasol" for fluffyllama Recipient:fluffyllama Author/Artist: ??? Title: The Cat and the Parasol Rating: NC-17 Pairings: Sybill Trelawney/Minerva McGonagall Word Count: ~8063 Medium: Words. Lots of words, but perhaps not so many as others are using. Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): *Sex (oral, digital, magical) between the main characters. *. Summary: Sybill Trelawney adjusts to her appointment as Hogwarts' Divination Professor. Author's Notes: * Did you know there's regional variation in how the name "Sybill" is spelled? As in, there's one in the UK and another in the US. Since this is a gift, I took fluffyllama's lead and used the spelling from her sign-up. * fluffyllama, I hope you enjoy this bit of insight into a relationship that features sex without "Twoo Wuv" and a relationship that "shouldn't work but somehow [does] against all the odds." * Thank you to the squad of lightning-fast beta readers who looked this over after the last minute had long passed: A, R, and W. You are absolute lifesavers. Any remaining mistakes are my own. * And thank you, once more, to atdelphi, who has gone above and beyond her duty in coping with me. Thank you for hosting this fest, and not kicking me out on my arse weeks ago.
Sybill pulled her shawls around her, wondering when she'd started to shiver. She blinked several times. She knew she must look owlish, but some things couldn't be helped; her great-great-grandmother had often said that Sybill was destined to seem a little queer.
Sybill resisted the urge to Summon her cloak, with its soft, warm cowl. Instead, she frowned and addressed the old man in front of her, the one who had just told her that his school was dropping her discipline from its curriculum, and that he wished her all the best.
The man who was now regarding her with something approaching astonished respect. Admiration, even.
Below them in the Hog's Head Inn there were raised voices; something about whether it was right and proper to toss out a bloke who'd been lurking suspiciously but certainly hadn't harmed anyone. The gruff voice of the barkeep trailed up: "I know his kind, and I won't be having any of His followers in my pub!"
Sybill's shiver, this time, felt justified. Nothing for it but to at least attempt to salvage some dignity. "Well, then, Headmaster, I thank you for your time and for considering me despite that." Though she did feel rather that he had wasted a good bit of her time; surely even someone as lofty as a Hogwarts Headmaster should know that travelling up to Scotland for an interview presented a rather large opportunity cost.
Albus Dumbledore started, seeming momentarily shocked by Sybill's valediction. "My dear Madam Trelawney," he said, "I fear I may have been too hasty in my dismissal."
Sybill blinked at him. What did he mean? She shook her head in an attempt to regain her footing in this conversation. "Sorry?"
Headmaster Dumbledore stroked his beard. He twisted a bit of it around his finger. "Yes," he said. "Upon further thought, your qualifications as a Seer are just the sort that we need to bring Divination back into the light, to modernise it, if you will." He nodded to himself. "I do apologise for seeming dismissive—I am, sadly, nearly as prejudiced against Divination as most others who lack the Sight."
Sybill's breath left her for a moment. She'd never thought she had much of a chance at this position, if she were frank; though she was well-credentialed, she'd no teaching experience, so she had known she was a long shot. Still, the thought "Return to Hogwarts" had come frequently enough during her morning meditations that, when she heard about old Joseph Iamidai resigning his post, she knew it wisest to follow the directive.
Professor Iamidai had long been unpopular among students; while Sybill had excelled in his courses, the vast majority of students received grades of Acceptable at best. Professor Iamidai refused to play to those who were looking for an easy grade, and would not reward those whose ambition and hard work were greater than their talent.
However, Sybill had spent the past decade studying with a diverse set of mentors, learning about the many ways different cultures approached divination practices. She'd learnt that while specific prophecies were the province of the few, many people—even Muggles!—experienced premonitions, could interpret omens, and could use divining tools.
Predictive magic was imprecise, yes, but also a bit more democratic.
"I'd be honoured," Sybill said softly. "And I look forward to helping both you and the many students and staff overcome those prejudices."
Those prejudices, it seemed, were well-entrenched among the staff; Sybill had to work at pretending not to see the way most of the other professors rolled their eyes at her introduction.
Or perhaps they were rolling their eyes at the suddenness of her appointment: Professor Iamidai was completing the academic year, after all, so there was no reason for Sybill to be moved into the castle so quickly.
"It would help the students for you to observe Joseph's curriculum, rather than starting cold in September," was all Headmaster Dumbledore had to say on the topic.
Professor Iamidai had also rolled his eyes when Sybill was introduced at the staff meeting, but she was sure his reasons were different. He'd never credited her as having any talent to speak of, despite the fact that she'd earned Outstandings on both her OWL's and her NEWT's in Divination.
Sybill's curiosity and dedication had meant nothing to him, since he'd never seen her deliver an actual Prophecy.
Well, to her own knowledge, Sybill never had done, but that didn't mean she couldn't teach divination techniques. The Sight wasn't as restricted when it came to reading signs and, in any event, her mum had said that most of the Seers in the family didn't remember issuing their prophecies anyway. So being able to offer them certainly didn't mean that one could teach others how to channel them.
Still, his muttering of "Those who can, prophesy; those who can't, teach Divination," seemed rather uncalled-for. Especially at their first meeting to discuss the curriculum.
Sybill frowned at the man seated before her. They were in his office at Hogwarts School, after all. "I suppose that's why you're leaving, then," she said, biting back the comment about his own predictive and teaching skills.
"Indeed, Miss Trelawney," he said coldly. "And I thought I'd finally impressed upon Albus that some things just can't be taught."
That comment made Sybill snort outright. She set down her tea. "Of course some things can't be taught, Mr Iamidai," she said, her tone purposefully light, "but surely that's no reason to deprive our young people of that which can."
Iamidai grunted and waved for her to continue.
"I believe," Sybill said, "that there are certain skills in Divination that are just that, skills. Tasseography, for instance, or Astrology or Tarot. And also, they provide an opportunity to help the children learn to think critically and to use their imaginations in a coherent manner."
"Fortune-telling." Iamidai's tone was scathing.
"And interpretative skills," Sybill retorted. "Which are not emphasised in any of the other curricula here, not even History of Magic." She paused. "Well, sometimes the Defence or Muggle Studies instructors do some of that, but I believe that interpretation and critical thinking must be the very focus of the Divination curriculum, especially since it is difficult to tell which of our adolescents might develop the Gift of Sight."
"You're wasting your time," Iamidai said. "Mark my words, within the year you'll be begging to come join me at my Institute for Advanced Seeing. And I'll not take you, as you haven't ever demonstrated any gift for Prophesying, no matter how ardently you study your tea leaves."
Sybill sighed and examined her cup once more.
Professor Minerva McGonagall was waiting by Sybill's rooms when she returned from the conference with Professor Iamidai. "Albus asked me to help you settle in," she said without preamble.
"Thank you, Minerva," Sybill said, a small thrill running through her at using her former professor's given name. "Though I don't think I need help unpacking—I'd hardly planned to move into the castle so quickly."
Minerva chuckled softly. "Of course not; you likely expected to be sent packing rather than offered a job. Still, settling in need not be just about your belongings." She arched a brow, and Sybill realised that Minerva was there to hear her vent about the man who ought to have been her mentor.
"Do come in," Sybill said. "I really could use a kind ear."
"You'll be glad to know I've got two," Minerva said.
Sybill had been granted temporary quarters—guest quarters, she supposed. There was a small sitting room and a smaller bedroom to the side with a very sensible en suite. Not at all what Sybill would choose for herself, but the headmaster had promised more luxurious quarters once Professor Iamidai had moved out.
She hoped they weren't his. She couldn't imagine that his uncongenial attitude would have made the rooms welcoming to anyone else with the Sight.
Inside her temporary quarters, Sybill offered Minerva a seat and some tea. "I'm sure the house-elves can provide you with whatever sort of tea you prefer," she said, "if you don't like the Darjeeling I've already got on hand."
"Darjeeling will be fine," Minerva said, a small smile on her face. "Now, how did your tete-a-tete with Joseph go?"
Sybill took a moment to compose her answer; tea preparation was good for that, as she couldn't speak while heating the water by magic. "It was rather enlightening," she finally responded. "I have no idea why he would have even taken up a teaching post, given how poorly he thinks of most students, even ones who have a passion for the subject."
Minerva snorted. "Rather hard to find other work in Britain, I should think," she said. "It's not as though Divination is a well-respected discipline, is it?"
Sybill threw her head against the back of her chair. "But people like him are the very reason nobody respects Seers, Soothsayers, or others who practice Divination Arts! He seems to want to be a god to everyone else—elevating 'genuine prophecies' above all other forms of prediction, when they're just as vague as the rest!"
She watched Minerva blink and take a slow sip of tea.
"You don't think Divination—prophecy, even—can be taught to precision?"
It was Sybill's turn to snort. "Of course not! Have you ever heard the sorts of things that Seers utter? Riddles, all of them. There's an art to interpretation, but even a particularly canny interpretation might be flat wrong, can't it?"
Minerva's face was serious, frowning. "But the source material—"
"The source material is just that: source material. You can let it guide your life, but it's only as good a guide as, say, the Muggle Bible."
Minerva's smile was warm this time. "What do you know of the Muggle Bible?"
"It was one of the books we studied in my World Prophecies class at university—the course was aimed at dispelling any sense we had that there was only one plausible interpretation of any prediction, even if it seemed to have been fulfilled."
"Sounds fascinating," Minerva said.
"It is!" Minerva had struck upon Sybill's academic passion. "There are several ways one can look at any omen or prophecy—for instance, in Tarot, the Death card can surely mean physical death, but most often people don't interpret it that way. Well, it would be hard to, since everyone dies sometime, but the card is drawn too frequently to show when. So it's often understood as a portent of great change—perhaps disastrous change, perhaps an incredible bit of growth. Same with, for instance, seeing the Grim in one's tea leaves. I mean, that's if you can tell that it's a Grim at all—tea leaves are notoriously tricky to sort out, after all. But a person who tells me they see a Grim in her cup has told me two things: that she's thinking about her own death, and that she's in for a big change soon."
"So there's a lot that's up to perception."
"Indeed! And the Muggle Bible—it has these writings in the Old Testament that are called prophetic, but Muggles disagree about whether the prophecy has been fulfilled. That is, some of the folks who believe that there are prophecies in the Hebrew Bible believe that they were fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth—in the New Testament—and some don't think he was the Messiah at all, but that the prophecies foretell a Messianic age or something like that." Sybill knew it was a bit more complicated, but she also knew better than to try to get into the intricacies with a witch. Especially since she hadn't read the source material or commentaries since she'd been in university.
"I know the Bible," Minerva said dryly.
Minerva hummed. "My father was a minister. Rough on him, having magical wife and kids."
Sybill gaped for a moment before hiding her face in her hands. "Well, I've really put my foot in it, then," she groaned.
She felt a hand on her knee. "Not in the least," said Minerva. "It's rather refreshing, actually, to hear a witch speak of something so central to my past, and be so sensible about it." When Sybill looked up, Minerva met her eyes, smiling.
"But you don't throw all your energy behind your prophecies, either?" she asked.
"Hmph," Sybill replied. "It's not as though I've ever had a real prophecy."
Looking at her teacup, she missed the way Minerva's eyes widened and mouth turned down.
Sybill had always been an introvert, a loner—she preferred reading to dancing, especially at those discos that were all the rage now. Other persons were, in her opinion, a necessary inconvenience; she acknowledged that Divination was a rather purposeless discipline if one did not share the fruits of the sooth with others.
She had not at all expected living at Hogwarts Castle to be so lonely.
Sure, there were other staff members, but mostly they were quite a lot older than her own thirty years, and hostile to Divination as well. The only one close in age, a twenty-something named Septima Vector, was also the staff member least inclined to give Sybill credit as an academic—this, despite the fact that Arithmancy was itself a discipline of experimentation!
And then there were the students.
Most had no aptitude at all for true prophecy, but that was to be expected. Their utter laziness on the other hand...that was a trial indeed. And even those who were earnest about their assignments, completing them on time and replete with references, failed at any sort of imagination. Most of the time, they grasped at the first image that came to mind from the tea leaves, looked it up in the books, and didn't even consider that the image could be seen differently, or that the symbols could be strung together into several unique stories.
Sybill sometimes feared there were no kindred spirits anywhere at Hogwarts.
Thank goodness for Minerva.
True, she didn't seem to put much stock in fortune-telling, but she could at least appreciate Sybill's desire to encourage imagination and forward-thinking. Too, she was the one who sensed Sybill had reached her breaking-point the day she came to the Head Table pale and trembling.
"It seems to me this is the last place you should be right now," Minerva said.
Sybill could only nod, but she reached for the pot of tea and poured herself a cup.
"Really," Minerva said, her hand coming to rest on Sybill's wrist. "I know you hate eating here."
It was true; Sybill could hardly stand the cacophony of the Great Hall at the best of times. Still, she needed to follow through, see whether her reading was the same now as it had been when she was teaching the third-year students that afternoon.
She drained her cup, swirled it, and read.
Then she had to force herself not to hurl the cup to the floor. It wasn't the fault of the cup, nor of the leaves inside.
She wouldn't have been so upset, had she not invited several of her students to watch her as she did the same earlier. This would teach her to make herself vulnerable before thirteen-year-old twits! They'd been merciless in their teasing, as if they had forgotten she was their teacher.
Her wrist was being stroked now, very subtly, but still. "I'm sure it's not as bad as all that, whatever you might think," Minerva said. "Come, we'll go to my sitting room and talk it over. We'll have some sandwiches brought up." And, taking Sybill's hand as if to forestall any arguments, Minerva rose from the table.
"I'm so very sorry," she said to the other staff, "but Sybill and I just realised we had to discuss some business that really oughtn't be shared with the students."
And they were off.
Minerva's rooms always surprised Sybill. They were less austere than one might expect of the rather severe woman. There was even a cat's scratching post in one corner, though Sybill had yet to see other evidence of a cat.
Speaking of which.
"Now, are you going to tell us what's troubling you?" Minerva said, patting the space beside her on the settee.
Sybill let out another moan, blushing as she did so. "It's so...humiliating. I was so foolish, and..."
Minerva pulled Sybill against her shoulder, using her other arm to pat her on the knee. "Come, now."
"I was starting the unit on Tasseography today," she started, feeling her breath choke her a bit. "And I decided to let them see inside my own cup, to help me with my own reading."
Minerva huffed; Sybill thought it was in amusement. "I gather you weren't well-pleased with what the leaves—or their reading—showed."
Sybill shook her head, smelling whatever soap it was that Minerva used through her thick robes. "Not in the least. It had the students speculating on my love life and...and my judgement!"
Sybill nodded, sniffing. "I mean, I'd read for myself last night—it was nothing scandalous then—just a book, you know, and...oh, and an owl, which I should have known would just mean trouble. But I haven't done anything worthy of gossip, Minerva! So I thought, okay, this is one of those times when I must take my leaves with a teaspoon of salt rather than sugar..."
"But what did your students see, dear?"
"Well, the students saw a cat and a fan..."
"A cat, you say?"
Sybill nodded again. "Yes, and that usually means a deceiver, one who will betray you...which is only somewhat troubling—you know that students are always trying to fool us..."
"Mm-hm," Minerva said, her tone not-quite encouraging. Sybill continued anyway.
"But paired with a fan..." She took a deep breath. "It implies that I'm going to flirt with the person who's betraying me!"
Minerva seemed to be choking a bit for a second. "Is that all it could mean?"
"Well, no. But when I read my leaves in the Great Hall, I came up with a cat and a parasol!"
"Lovers. It means I'll take my deceiver as a lover." Sybill shuddered, falling silent.
"Sybill." Minerva turned, and held Sybill apart from her, looking in her eyes. "Aren't you the brilliant young lass who is forever reminding me that no reading is final, that these symbols mustn't be taken too literally or too seriously?"
Eyes bright, Sybill nodded.
"Well, isn't it possible..." Minerva looked a bit uncomfortable except for an upward quirk on the left side of her mouth. "Isn't it possible that that the cat could mean something else?"
Sybill blinked. "Like what?"
Minerva bit her lip, but there was a distinct sparkle in her eye. "Like—" her voice shook with suppressed laughter as she whispered, "pussy?"
Sybill laughed as well.
"I suppose it could!" she said. "Though I'm surprised you would suggest it!"
Sybill wasn't sure how to find pussy, however; she rarely left the castle, and it wasn't as though Hogsmeade was so liberal as to have a pub with a "Witches' Night" that catered to women-loving-women.
Still, it was good to know that Minerva hadn't rejected her friendship, knowing that Sybill might enjoy the pleasures of other witches.
"It's so different here than at any of the universities, especially in the States, you know," she commented to Minerva one night over sherry. "It's not as though lesbianism is accepted over there, at least not in the mainstream. But there's a counter-culture of sorts."
Minerva's eyebrows lifted at this. "Is there?"
"Yes," Sybill replied, closing her eyes to reminisce. "It seems to be growing out of something they call feminism, you see. Women rejecting their persecution, which has apparently been severe among the Muggles."
"I know," Minerva said. Sybill looked up at her; her expression was sad. "My own mother...she had to repress so much of who she was—not just her magic, but her fire, her passion, her competence—in order to be a 'good wife' to my father. The Muggles he worked for—the town, really—would have thought him weak if his women were too 'uppity.'"
Sybill could hear the resentment, the bitterness, in her voice. "And that's what these Muggle women are fighting. And some of them, especially those who love other women sexually, are separating from men, too..."
"Really!" Minerva's voice was full of surprise—and perhaps a trace of admiration.
"Yes. And they do this thing called 'reclaiming' language—calling themselves womyn-with-a-y in the last syllable, and dykes." She paused. "And witches, even. There was a group I met at an American university that called themselves a coven of witches, if you can imagine that. Not a trace of magic in any of them, so far as I could tell. But they said that there was magic available to anyone willing to seek it."
Minerva chuckled, a low, rich sound. "I suppose that was right up your Floo, yes?"
"It's what drew me to them—why I even bothered with Muggle groups when I was in the US. I was so shocked when I met a woman called Cerridwen who wasn't a witch. Or, at least, not one like you or I." She smiled and flushed a bit, remembering.
"In magic, at least," Minerva murmured.
Sybill met her eyes and smiled back, a bit shyly. "In magic, at least," she agreed.
They didn't mention that conversation for months, though Sybill thought on it every so often.
Minerva had been flirting with her, Sybill was certain of that. It fulfilled the first of the tasseographs, then, but not the second.
Sybill didn't think that Minerva would be the fulfilment of her second reading, though. And perhaps she had been amiss in thinking she'd seen a parasol; perhaps it had been a feather atop an upside-down fan.
She was, therefore, rather shocked when Minerva turned up at her doorway on the first of May, a smirk on her lips and sparkle in her eye.
"Look at what I've found, Sybill!" she cried, nearly cackling with glee.
In her hand was a piece of Muggle paper—a garish violet-coloured handbill of sorts, its words arranged around a pentagram:
BELTANE SABBAT hosted by ~*THE DIANIC SOCIETY OF ABERDEEN*~
Come for a night of Magickal revelry! Arrive at sunset for bonfire ~*~ Stay by your heart's desire
East Loch Lomond follow the signs from Balmaha
Open to witches and like-minded womyn
"Loch Lomond is rather far from Aberdeen for Muggles," Sybill remarked.
"Indeed, but it seems they want to make an event of it," replied Minerva, her twinkle increasing wickedly. "And the park at Loch Lomond is certainly big enough to accommodate such a gathering."
Sybill tried to suppress a laugh but failed. "The gathering won't be that large," she said, wheezing a little. "Even if there are ample Americans among them—and this is such an American-type event. But seriously, perhaps a couple dozen Wiccans will be there. They probably opened it to the public—"
"The public of 'witches and like-minded women'?" Minerva interjected.
"Yes, that public," Sybill said, chuckling again, "because they don't have a large enough membership for a full, thirteen-member circle."
Minerva frowned, though the corner of her mouth twitched a bit with the effort. "And if we arrive and there are more than thirteen witches?"
Sybill raised a shoulder. "I don't think they'd turn us away...especially if I brought a Tarot deck."
"Excellent!" Minerva said. "Let's go!"
Sybill coughed. "Now? I've another lesson, and I thought you'd have two more!"
She couldn't believe it, but she was watching Minerva McGonagall, known for her gravitas above all else, pout.
"Not this minute, no, but I've asked Argus to oversee the detentions I'd set for tonight. I'd love to see what these Muggles you go on about do at these rites of theirs."
Sybill rubbed her left eye, then ran her hand through her hair. "Of course," she said. "Sunset won't be until nearly nine o'clock, after all, so we don't need to leave before seven-thirty. That would certainly give us time to walk off the grounds here and Apparate there."
"Hm. Better make it seven," said MInerva. "We don't know how close to Balmaha it would be, and even broomsticks might not get us there in time if we don't know where we're going."
Sybill had noticed, even as a student, that Minerva McGonagall had a presence to her. That is, she commanded the room she was in, unless she had ceded that control to someone else. Like the Headmaster.
Minerva, it seemed, could command a small grove just as well as she could a room. It sent shivers down Sybill's spine.
Of course, part of the effect might have been that Minerva was at least twice the age of most of the women gathered and four times as self-possessed.
"They're...university students!" she had whispered to Sybill when they'd finally got close enough to see the young women building a small fire, most of them in dungarees and hiking boots. Some of them wore loose, flowing skirts, and some had already doffed their blouses. Or shirts. Sybill wasn't sure what women of this type called their attire anymore.
It did seem, however, that not only were Minerva and Sybill much older than these girls, but better-dressed as well.
Or perhaps that should be 'more-dressed', as several of the young women seemed in the process of shucking off what garments they had.
It made Sybill feel like an old hag. And she was only thirty-one!
Minerva hadn't allowed the risk of feeling like an old hag herself. No, she had quickly cast a glamour to make her appear younger, spryer.
Sybill hated the look; Minerva's new face and body might be prettier by some standards, but they lacked character.
She was shocked, actually, to find herself missing her friend's crow's feet and laugh lines, the stray white hairs curling out of her prim bun like wires. The soft look of her skin, beginning to loosen with age.
At least Minerva hadn't lost her posture, though as a twenty-something, she looked more like a ballet dancer than a disciplinarian.
"Did you dance, Minerva?" Sybill asked, her curiosity running ahead of her tact. "It's only that, well, you hold yourself like a Muggle dancer, but I hadn't ever heard you mention it."
But there was no answer, not from the person to whom the question had been directed. Instead, an overly-energetic young woman with rosy, pert breasts and hair of an insensible length woven through with flowers burst into their conversation.
"Ooh, your name is Minerva? Why did you choose it? And what's a Muggle?"
Sybill refrained from banging her head against a tree.
"No, dear, actually my parents named me Minerva—they were classics enthusiasts of a sort."
"Oh," the woman said. "Well, that's lovely, too. I go by Anthea now, well, when I'm among my sisters, at least," she said, gesturing indistinctly at the other women gathering. "Welcome, though! Merry meet!"
Minerva looked at Sybill, who nodded and replied, "Merry meet, Anthea. You can call me Sybill."
"Sybill! There's no way both of you had classicist parents so...you have psychic powers? Or are you working on developing them?"
My, this girl was chatty! "I have some particular intuitive talent," Sybill said and patted the pocket with her Tarot deck. "Perhaps sometime you would like me to do a reading with you?"
"Do you have a matriarchal deck?" Anthea asked.
Sybill frowned. "I have the deck my mother gave me as a child."
Anthea nodded. "I suppose that was before the new ones were created, and I suppose you have a history with that deck...I've just heard such wonderful things about new decks coming out of California—have you been?"
"To California?" Sybill shrugged. "Yes, I've been, but I've lost touch with the friends I met there—I was rather nomadic after finishing school."
"Well! You'll have to tell me all about it!" Anthea gushed, and took Sybill by the elbow to lead her toward the growing fire. "Sisters! Come meet these women who have come to join us! Sybill here reads Tarot!"
The others were less excited about the Tarot, but still warmly welcoming, despite the obvious age difference between most of them and Sybill. They invited the two witches to join them in stoking the small fire, so as to create an atmosphere conducive to disrobing.
"Skyclad" seemed to be how these women preferred to celebrate Beltane.
Frankly, given how luscious and supple most of their bodies were, Sybill didn't blame them. She was feeling a bit self-conscious about her already-lowered breasts and the marks of age and experience in her skin.
"Now you see why I chose a glamour," Minerva murmured in her ear. "You, though, you're still lovely. No need to hide yourself away," she said and tugged at Sybill's skirt.
Sybill snorted. "One might think you were panting to see what I'm hiding underneath here," she said wryly.
Minerva's eyes were serious for a moment but soon danced again. "One might," she said and pulled her own blouse over her head.
The women around them applauded, reminding Sybill they weren't alone. "No need to be bashful! We're all sisters here!" the one of them who called herself Sappho called out.
Sybill rolled her eyes; she doubted any woman who chose that name was looking at them in a sisterly fashion. Still, the laughter and camaraderie was contagious, and she grinned as she shucked her own kit.
The ritual itself was a sweet paean to sisterhood, Sapphic love, and feminine wisdom, all of which were principles Sybill supported, though she thought it rather short-sighted to write off the spiritual potential and contributions of men. There was much chanting about strength and healing and weaving as they danced in a circle. They passed a cup, each woman tipping wine into the mouth of the woman to her left, and blessing one another with oil and embraces.
Sybill's soul felt warm and giddy, and she understood why these Muggles might believe their actions cultivated magic among them. Indeed, there was a sort of electricity in the air that, though unchannelled, was familiar to both witches present.
"It is magic," Minerva said with awed softness as the circle broke into pairs and triads seeking their shoes.
"It is," Sybill agreed, taking her friend by the hand.
And as Sybill, wonder-struck, pulled Minerva in for a kiss, Anthea shouted, "It is!"
Minerva laughed into Sybill's mouth, nipping at her lip. "Soon, yes?" she said with a grin.
Sybill tugged her close again, sealing their agreement with a kiss on the nose.
It wasn't soon enough, however, as the two witches found it difficult to take their leave of the group gracefully—it seemed that most of them had 'car-pooled', whatever that meant, and were both concerned that Sybill and Minerva should leave safely and hoping for a 'ride back to town,' in which 'town' referred to Aberdeen.
Plus, there was the feasting. And the drinking and dancing.
After a particularly invigorating reel around the fire, Sybill found herself with an armful of tipsy Transfiguration Mistress. "We'll never get out of here!" Minerva giggled in her ear, her breath hot and wine-scented.
Sybill chortled. "Of course we will," she said quietly, guiding her friend against a tree. "All we need to do," she said, kissing the corner of Minerva's mouth, "is convince them we need to be left alone."
Minerva responded with an enthusiastic kiss, her lips soft and firm and insistent against Sybill's. Sybill gasped in surprise; she'd hoped for reciprocation, but hadn't thought her friend would with such aplomb. As Sybill opened her mouth, Minerva swiped her tongue along Sybill's bottom lip, encouraging her to part her lips further.
Minerva's tongue was rougher and more agile than Sybill had expected, or even experienced with past lovers. It was as though she could reach in and find every point of pleasure in Sybill's mouth, every patch that would send shivers down Sybill's spine and into her centre.
Within minutes, Sybill was trembling. She canted her hips toward Minerva, weaving their legs together in search of more heat, more sensation, more.
Then Minerva was tipping her head back in laughter, looking around them to see that the other women were noticeably averting their gazes, trying to maintain some decorum where the two older witches had shown none. "I think it's time we went somewhere a bit more private," she said to Sybill loudly enough that the closest women could hear them and pass on the message to anyone who asked. "Let us gather our things and find someplace...more amenable, yes?"
"Oh, yes," Sybill moaned, not caring who heard how lusty she was.
It was a Beltane celebration, after all. Lust was only to be expected.
They waved gaily at the other women as they departed the small grove. Those who were still present and uninvolved in their own amorous activities looked up from where they'd started to stamp the embers of the fire and waved back.
Minerva took Sybill by the hand and led her off.
"Is this the direction we came from?" asked Sybill after several minutes.
Minerva quirked an eyebrow at her. "Not quite," she said, "but I'm looking for another small grove. You did wish to continue, did you not?"
Sybill felt her stomach, heart, and cunt simultaneously melt and throb at the suggestion. She could smell her own arousal wafting around the scent of fire that permeated the clothes in her arms. "Yes, yes," she said.
Minerva grabbed her around the waist, dropping her own bundle to wrap her fingers in Sybill's hair. "I'm so glad to hear that," she said.
Sybill dropped her own garments and kissed Minerva below the ear, lower on her neck, at the juncture of her shoulder and collarbone. "I'm so glad you want to," she whispered.
But Minerva pulled back. "We're still too apt to be found here," she said. Her tone was regretful. "I can scope out a better place quickly." And in the blink of an eye, Minerva-the-witch was gone, replaced by a tabby cat with eyeglass-like markings around the eyes.
"Oh!" Sybill was, perhaps, more stunned than was warranted. She had, of course, seen Minerva transform when she was a student, but hadn't given it a thought since they'd reacquainted themselves. "I suppose you would be able to lead us away from other people, then," she said as the cat wound around her bare ankles. She leaned down, scratching the cat's scruff, feeling it purr against her fingers.
"Well," she said, straightening and looking for a stump to wait upon, "I reckon you'd better go; I don't feel like waiting too much longer!"
The cat darted off, leaving Sybill to wonder at the sheer power of the witch she'd so recently been kissing. For the truth was, as much as Sybill had admired—even desired after—the other woman's way of commanding a room, she'd always chalked it up to Minerva's personality rather than her magical strength.
The magical strength did not, of course, diminish the force of Minerva's personality. Indeed, it was another layer of sureness to an already magnificent example of female confidence.
It only made Sybill want Minerva more.
Within moments, it seemed, Minerva was striding back towards her, in all her naked, mature glory. Sybill was relieved that the glamour had broken when Minerva transformed—that, or Minerva had cancelled it, not needing to hide herself from Sybill as she had with the Muggle witches.
"Come," Minerva said, stooping to grab her belongings.
A frisson of lust travelled through Sybill at Minerva's words and posture. How odd, indeed, that Sybill would want to succumb to another so soon after celebrating the innate power of all women—including herself! Yet she wanted to give over her power, to let Minerva "have her way" with Sybill, as it were.
Sybill decided that she could examine her motivations, her feminist credentials, later. For now, she wanted to celebrate the glory of what her sisters in the Beltane circle called Sapphic Love.
The clearing Minerva had found wasn't too far away—and indeed, it was barely a clearing, being but large enough for the two of them. The sound of the other women was muffled by the thick growth of trees and understory; still, Minerva delineated a boundary and set both Muggle-repelling and Silencing Charms to hide them. Sybill busied herself with laying her cloak and a Cushioning Charm on the ground.
Preparation of the area done, they sat. Minerva reached out first, cupping Sybill's face with one hand and tracing her jaw with her thumb.
"Lovely," she said and smiled at the blush that crept across Sybill's face.
"I would say the same of you," Sybill replied, leaning into the hand. She tilted her head forward and kissed Minerva's wrist. Minerva's hand tightened into her hair, bringing their faces together.
This close, Sybill could appreciate the softness of Minerva's skin, the glow of the moon bouncing off her white hairs and high cheekbones. She could smell the telltale signs of this night: camp smoke, wine, sweat, and arousal. Weaving though it all was a scent of lavender and mint, which Sybill thought must be Minerva's soap. She breathed it all in deeply as she closed her eyes and felt their lips press together once more.
This kiss did not build as quickly as the one they'd staged for the other women. Instead it grew from their banked desire, slowly and tenderly at first, with playful sucks and nips dancing out on their tongues and lips. They let it grow, let their desire press their mouths and bodies together until Sybill fairly wanted to crawl inside Minerva, or be crawled inside herself.
"Thank Merlin," she said, "we were already naked."
Minerva huffed a laugh into her mouth. "Thank the Goddess?"
Sybill giggled and shrugged. "Thank you, more like. I don't suppose that anyone is responsible for this but us."
"Indeed," Minerva said, and gently pushed Sybill's shoulder towards the ground. Sybill opened her legs in response. "Eager, are we?" Minerva teased.
"You have no idea."
Minerva's face was obscured a bit in the darkness, but Sybill thought she could see the signs of a twitching mouth. "I think I might," she said lowly, and bent to Sybill's breast.
One thing to say about older women: they know the balance one needs to strike when attending another's nipples. Sybill arched into Minerva's mouth, revelling in the pure decadence of the sensation. She moaned appreciatively and gasped with delight when Minerva bit lightly. She looked down. Minerva was grinning, her lips curving around the teeth that aroused Sybill so much.
Sybill tried to follow Minerva's mouth as it withdrew. Minerva chuckled. "Like that, do you?" she muttered.
"So much," said Sybill, reaching toward her, trying to coax her back.
"Oh, but there's so much more to taste, my dear," Minerva said and set out to sample various bits of skin on Sybill's torso.
Sybill giggled; she'd always been ticklish. "Minerva!" Minerva paused so briefly, Sybill couldn't even credit it as a pause rather than a tease. "Minerva!" Sybill repeated, her belly shaking, her legs spasming with laughter.
"Oh, good!" Minerva finally commented in between her layers of light, teasing kisses along Sybill's pubic bone. "So glad to see you're not just a fusty academic."
"Moi?" retorted Sybill. "As if anyone thinks my discipline requires discipline, Mistress McGonagall!"
That drew a cackle from Minerva. "Oh, and are you requiring discipline, Miss Trelawney?" she drawled in a mock English accent.
Sybill dissolved even more fully into giggles and at last rolled away from Minerva. "Damn you, woman—your hands and mouth are like a Rictusempra!"
Minerva knelt up, giving a half-bow from that position. "Spells and charms are all well and good, but we mustn't neglect our manual skills." She wiggled her fingers at Sybill, who snorted.
"I think it's my turn to practice those skills," she said, crawling back to Minerva.
The moon glanced off Minerva's face, making her smirk both visible and sexier. "Do you, now?"
But Sybill was at her already, running her fingers up the other woman's back, cupping a breast in one hand as one of her knees pushed between Minerva's legs. "I've been waiting months to try it," she said.
"My flirtations must be falling flat, then," Minerva teased, "because I've been waiting months for you to try it."
"Clearly I was as silly," Sybill said, "as most of my students."
Minerva's voice was low, nearly a rumble. "But much, much sexier."
Sybill leaned down and kissed Minerva again, this time pouring her desire, her hunger, into the kiss. She sucked at Minerva's tongue and fitted their breasts between one another. Straddling one of Minerva's thighs, Sybill reached down to grab Minerva's buttocks (she couldn't conceive of calling it an arse) and hoist them up so that the two of them could slide together like an erotic lesbian jigsaw puzzle.
Sybill was rather lightheaded by the time they broke for air. In a haze, she slipped a hand between them and dragged a finger around Minerva's clitoris.
At the responding moan, she felt the liquid between her own legs flow even more.
The position, however, was awkward. The sounds and shudders couldn't make up for the strange angle of Sybill's wrist, so they had to come apart a bit. "Here, let me," Sybill murmured, easing Minerva down to the cloak and sliding so both hand and mouth were settled at Minerva's pussy.
The smell and taste were of a sweet brine, salt and tang and wine and a bite of mint. The smoke from earlier still clung to her hair and added a certain rustic element to their coupling. Sybill traced her tongue round and round Minerva's clit, sliding her fingers slowly, deeply into Minerva's vagina.
Minerva's voice cracked as she demanded Sybill fuck her harder: "More! I won't break!"
Even if she would, Sybill had her marching orders and thrust harder, faster, and with enthusiasm. And as she shoved her fingers, curling them against that spongy spot, she sucked Minerva's clit hard, letting her triumphant laughter be another level of vibration as Minerva's thighs locked around her head and her entire body bucked.
Sybill shuddered through Minerva's orgasm and curled atop the older witch, giddy with her success.
Minerva's voice was still creaky from its exertion when she spoke into Sybill's hair. "That was bloody amazing, Sybill." Sybill hummed happily against her breast, kissing it for good measure. "But I believe it's your turn."
Sybill was very agreeable to that!
Minerva's technique was unlike any Sybill had experienced. Her tongue was quick and precise, lapping just around Sybill's clit, just light enough to drive her out of her mind. And while she slid in her fingers much as Sybill had done, she did not pump them. Instead, as the licks to Sybill's clit grew stronger, broader, rougher, Minerva's fingers seemed to be pulsing themselves. And pulsing energy into the very spots that pleasured Sybill the most.
Sybill suddenly realized that Minerva was pouring magic through her fingers into Sybill's core.
"Turning on the charm, are we?" she gasped.
Minerva pulled her head up. Sybill felt stupid for having interrupted an exceptional feat of cunnilingus.
"But of course," Minerva said, spreading her fingers inside Sybill.
Sybill shrieked. Minerva bent her head again. And again.
In fact, she kept her tongue and magic at work until Sybill was sobbing, tears of ecstasy and exhaustion running down her face.
"Enough," she finally managed to say. "I—I'm going to keep coming forever if you keep on, and it's starting to hurt."
Minerva stopped immediately. "Do you need a healing charm?" she asked.
Sybill shook her head, but even she wasn't sure whether that was a response to the question or the continuing aftershocks of her orgasms.
Minerva frowned. "Probably a bad idea to ride a broom for hours home," she said. She pulled Sybill into her arms and wrapped her own cloak around them both. "Hush, now. We'll rest awhile and then I'll Side-Along you back to the Hogwarts gates."
Sybill would have agreed to anything Minerva suggested, but that sounded like a particularly fine plan.
They did not become "girlfriends" after that night.
Fantastic sex was fantastic sex, of course, and neither of them was one to deprive herself of such a skilled partner when the urge struck them both. But neither of them wanted to cling to another woman socially. Clinging sexually from time to time pleased them just fine.
Besides, neither could be as honest with the other as they would want to be with their true love. Minerva had secrets, of course, concerning her involvement with the Order of the Phoenix.
Though Sybill had offered her services to Professor Dumbledore and his band of merry magicians, she'd been rebuffed. Politely, but Dumbledore was quite insistent that she remain ignorant and useless to the cause. It seemed he could only see her as a Divinations Mistress, and not as a warrior. And Divination, she supposed, was not a discipline he consulted when devising his battle plans.
For her own part, Sybill didn't want to admit the lengths she'd started to go to in order to provoke any sort of imaginative response from her students. She would talk to Minerva about her selection of magical and Muggle texts when she started the unit on dream interpretations, but would not share her tactic of allowing the classroom to become so stuffy and incense-filled that the students would start to nod off. Neither would she share the fact that she had even considered dipping her incense cones in a mild hallucinogen.
She hadn't done that, of course. Instead she made silly, vague predictions in her classes that half the students claimed had come true just as she said and the other half claimed hadn't come close to fulfilment.
Neither side of the argument was able to see the merits of the other, usually. It broke her heart that they were all so closed-minded, so hardened against the idea of multiple understandings.
They still took tea together, though, Sybill and Minerva. And an occasional sherry. Sometimes at the same time.
The night after Samhain of the next year was an occasion for the latter.
"Murdered!" Minerva said, collapsing on Sybill's settee. "We were out gallivanting with those Muggle witches, and Voldemort," she spat, "was busy murdering James and Lily Potter."
Sybill hadn't known James and Lily Potter—only by name, and only insofar as Minerva sometimes harkened back to their epic battles over pranks and fairness when discussing current students. She could but try to comfort her dear friend.
"We couldn't have stopped it," Sybill said, "could we? Did anyone even know they could be attacked?"
Minerva sniffed, then hiccoughed. "We knew they were targeted, but thought they were safe—Fidelius, you know. They, all of us, were betrayed in the worst way!" And as Sybill wrapped an arm around her, Minerva crumpled, sobbing.
When the wracking of Minerva's body subsided, Sybill settled her back, half-reclining.
"Tea," she said. She splashed a bit of sherry into their cups first, then added tea from the pot. "Drink and then let's swirl them for a reading."
Sybill's cup had a cat. It always had a cat, now. Usually a dog, too, to show how well she could trust her friendship with Minerva. This time, the cat was above the dog; the dog walked along the bottom of the cup. Next to a vase. This cup was not at all subtle. "You need my help tonight, love," Sybill said, showing Minerva the cup.
"Likely for longer than tonight," Minerva said. She stared into her own cup, but did not share the reading with Sybill, instead pouring more sherry and tea into it. She did the same for Sybill.
"To friendship," she said. "And new beginnings for our country." She closed her eyes and swallowed. "May the darkness we've known be gone forevermore."
"Sláinte," said Sybill.
Then she held her friend and listened to the wind howl at her tower as if it were grieving too.