|atdelphi (atdelphi) wrote in hp_beholder,|
@ 2014-04-16 15:46:00
|Entry tags:||amelia bones, amelia bones/severus snape, augusta longbottom, augusta longbottom/minerva mcgonagall, beholder 2014, femslash, fic, het, minerva mcgongall, rated:r, severus snape|
FIC: "Enough For Now" for kellychambliss
Title: Enough For Now
Rating: Hard R
Pairing: Minerva/Augusta, Amelia/Severus
Word Count: 5,900
Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): *None*.
Summary: It was supposed to be just Minerva and her. Add two unlikely companions, Stinky Bob, potted shrimps, and Death Eaters, and it adds up to not quite the trip Augusta had imagined.
Author's Notes: This story takes place in the summer of 1980. Thank you to the mod for running this lovely fest. It's hard work and we appreciate it! Kelly, I so hope that you enjoy this. Thank you so much to my beta for speedy and excellent suggestions!
“I don’t fancy going on brooms,” Augusta says. “So you can put that notion out of your head.”
Minerva laughs. Minerva often laughs at her. Sometimes it makes her feel warm inside. Sometimes it makes her want to push Minerva into the lake.
“I would never suggest it,” Minerva says, still smiling in a way that Augusta can’t decide is irritating or charming.
She settles on irritating.
“You needn’t take that tone,” she says. “Not all of us want to go swooping about like children. It’s undignified.”
“I haven’t taken a tone and a bit of undignified swooping wouldn’t do you any harm.” Minerva sighs and resets her shoulders. “Not everyone loves flying. Doesn’t mean it’s not a perfectly reasonable way for those of us who do to travel.”
“Well, I’m not going back to Morecambe for the first time in twenty years with my robe flapping up around my waist.”
“There’s an image.”
Augusta levels her with her most quelling glare.
“I apologize. This isn’t easy for you.” Minerva takes a breath and begins again as if the previous exchange never happened. “We leave tomorrow. I’ve arranged two Portkeys. The first one will take us to Loch Lomond. We'll have the afternoon there and the second will take use to Morecambe and your Aunt's house. Let's make a bit of a holiday of it, if we can manage that.” She smiles again, indisputably kindly this time. “And I’ll keep the sarcasm to a minimum.”
“Don’t go and become someone else. I’d find that disconcerting.”
"Augusta," Minerva says, laughing. She turns to finish packing the clothes she'd laid out neatly on the bed into an old cloth travelling bag.
The soft earth yields beneath her walking shoes. She steps carefully between the heather and the rocks, picking her way up a steep bit of hill. Why Portkeys always seem to be at the top of hills, she couldn't say.
"On you come," Minerva says, three strides ahead of her. Minerva reaches back to take her hand and Augusta makes it up the hill.
She sees the old wooden washbasin, the object of choice for today. It's there, just past the crest of the hill.
Augusta stops in her tracks. "You're going to tell me why he's here and then I'll decide if I'm going to stun both of you."
Minerva frowns and stops as well. "I don't know why Severus is here, Augusta," she hisses. "Don't go off half-cocked quite yet. Let's ask him."
Before they can say a word, the weedy young man looks at them as if they're the intruders.
"Dumbledore sent me. It's not as if I asked to come along," Severus says, pulling an envelope with the Hogwarts seal on it from him robes. He hands it to Minerva.
"Professor Dumbledore didn't say anything to me about it," Minerva says. She turns the envelope in her hand as if she thinks it might be a Howler in disguise.
"Well, I did ask to come along and it has nothing to do with Dumbledore."
Striding over the crest of the hill is Amelia Bones, looking formidable as ever.
"I didn't think you ever asked anything," Minerva says, and something in the tone gives Augusta the distinct impression that this interloper, Minerva knew was coming.
"All right, perhaps ask is not quite the right word. I thought you might appreciate having an Auror along and I've some newish Aurors in the area I'd like to check in on," Amelia says. "No time to waste," she announces, glancing at a large pocket watch that just appears in her hand.
One would think she'd arranged the trip and the Portkey and all. Augusta is about to voice this theory when Minerva grabs her hand and places it on the washbasin.
Minerva stares down at the rusty billy can, sighs, and stuffs the letter that just arrived for her into her pocket. Her eyes follow the owl into the horizon. "There was a mix up," she says. "It won't activate until Thursday."
Augusta is relieved, although she would never voice that. She finds she's that, while she is anxious to finish this task and get back to Frank and Alice and her brand new grandson, she isn't in a hurry to confirm her certainty that this is a fool's errand.
"Do you mean," Severus says—slowly. The young man seems to have a flair for dramatic effect that makes Augusta want a good, stiff drink. "That we are stuck here for two more days?"
"I didn't realise you were in such a hurry to be beside the seaside," Minerva says.
"The sooner we get there the sooner this little excursion can be over," he snaps back.
Augusta would love to see Minerva take this young upstart to task. Instead, she smiles. The air by the loch must be addling her brain.
"Severus," she says. "Professor Dumbledore sent you for a reason and driving me 'round the twist wasn't it. Relax and enjoy the view." Minerva waves her wand and four sturdy camp chairs appear. "I dare say, there's no shortage of hard to find herbs and plants about. I'd think you'd be stocking up on potions ingredients."
"I could use some hebane," he says.
Amelia's eyes light. "I'll help you look," she says. "For the price of hearing everything you know about it."
"I hope we won't be here that long," he says.
"Come on," Amelia says, rolling her eyes. She tramps off after him as if this is the most fun she's had in years.
"And you come on, as well," Minerva says to Augusta. "Help me gather some heather for the beds."
"Just ask Severus. It has a soporific effect. You've never had a bed so pleasant. My mum always told me it's how the faeries sleep," Minerva says. She tosses a smile over her shoulder as she bends to begin gathering heather. Augusta is almost convinced to believe that this really is a holiday and not a mission to see if her batty old Aunt Ernestine will repeat the prophecy she muttered the day before Frank and Alice married.
Gathering the heather is surprisingly calming. The scent is lovely and the air is clear and crisp. The tent is roomy and comfortable. Minerva and she even have time for a cup of tea and a chat before Severus and Amelia come back. They are pink-cheeked, chatting away, and carrying satchels full to bursting with herbs.
They add some of the herbs to the rich stew that Minerva has set to simmering and open a rather fine bottle of claret. It's not precisely how Augusta expected to spend the summer her grandson was born, but it's not the worst day she's ever had, either.
The camp chair is so low that Augusta's buttocks nearly touch the ground. The fire warms her feet and keeps the midges at bay. Minerva's feet stretch toward the fire as well, and the tips of their shoes nearly touch.
Amelia and Severus lean together nattering on about whatever foul poultice they've mashed up into the little portable cauldron he seems have at his finger tips at all time.
"Honestly," she mutters so only Minerva can hear. "Who carries a cauldron in his robe?"
Minerva just laughs and taps the toe of Augusta's shoe with hers.
Across the fire, Amelia says something that sounds like, bug mirror. "What on earth are they talking about?"
"Bog myrtle," Amelia says and Augusta coughs. She thought she'd been quiet. "Severus found loads of it just beyond that hill." Amelia gestures behind her and Severus smiles. It's a bit of a disturbing sight, Augusta can't help but think, these two, thick as thieves. "You'll be pleased enough tomorrow at twilight to keep the midges at bay."
"I don't have any idea what anything you've just said means," she says. Minerva laughs again and so does Amelia. "I'm pleased to entertain you, but I really don't know what's funny."
"I think they've both had enough to drink," Severus says. He gestures at the flask in Amelia's hand. Augusta expects Minerva to object that she's never been drunk in her life, but she laughs again. "Bog myrtle is a useful little shrub. It repels the midges, as Amelia said."
"Severus knows more about herbs' use in potions than anyone I've met. He's shown me some that cure infection and another that promises excellent digestion," Amelia says. She smiles at Severus.
"Who's cooking, if you think we'll need that?" Augusta says. Severus smiles and looks at his feet. They do seem to be getting on like a house on fire. She's never seen Amelia take to anyone so quickly, and she's disconcerted enough by this development that she reaches for Minerva's flask.
"Well, I'm not. This is about the time of year that Night Nasturtium bloom," Severus says. His eyes dart to Amelia. He seems to know so much for a man so young that Augusta can almost imagine enjoying his company. "They have important restorative properties and I'd like to collect some."
"Show me where they are," Amelia says.
They walk off into the dark. Augusta can't blame her for her interest in this young man. Augusta thinks of her often and her sister who languishes from an illness that confounds the healers at St. Mungo's. She never ceases looking for a cure. She can see that Severus' knowledge gives her hope. Hope is in scarce supply these days and they could all use a bit more of it to be getting on with.
"Alone at last," she says. She takes Minerva's hand because she wants to, because she doesn't want to lose herself in her own maudlin thoughts, and because there were never so many stars near London as there are in this sky tonight.
The lantern inside the tent offers just enough of itself to light Augusta’s way to the water’s edge. Gentle waves lap at the round stones, polished smooth by hundreds of years of the soft ebb and flow of the loch. The moon is half obscured by wisps of clouds.
Augusta toes off her shoes and balances to pull off her socks. She steps carefully so as not to lose her footing on the round stones.
She steps into the shallows and gasps when the icy water envelopes her feet. The silence is almost overpowering. She catches herself smiling at the sound of sensible boots on stone behind her.
“Now, don’t tell me I’ll catch my death.”
“Don’t be silly. A bit of paddling in the summer never did anyone harm. It’s good for your feet,” says Minerva.
“It’s good for my head. If I heard one more thing about heletrope or how nettles are terribly misunderstood, I’d have throttled one of them.”
“They do go on,” Minerva says. “You can hardly blame Amelia and I don’t think Severus has had anyone take an interest in him since he left school.”
“Terrible business, Amelia’s been through.”
“Terrible business is in abundant supply at the moment.”
There's a whisper of a sound from deeper in the water. Augusta feels it more than she hears it. She’d hoped for a glimpse of the serpent. Somehow knowing such a powerful, magical creature swims beneath the smooth surface of the loch brings her a measure of comfort.
It’s so quiet and serene out here, Augusta almost believes herself the tale she’d told Frank and Alice that she and Minerva were going on holiday. Minerva's beside her, her boots kicked off on the stones behind them. She hikes up her robe and steps into the frigid water next to Augusta.
"That lets you know you're alive," Minerva says.
Augusta laughs and takes a step closer to Minerva. "What do you think's going on with those two?"
"I think they've found a mutual interest," Minerva says, smiling slyly. "It's good to see Amelia with that old spark again. Not that I'd ever have thought Severus would be the one to light it."
There's a splash in the distance. Augusta holds her breath and looks into the dark across the water. She hasn't seen her Aunt Ernestine since the old lady came to Frank and Alice's wedding. Aunt Ernestine was the only member in the family, in any branch for all history, who claimed to have the gift of prophecy. You couldn't finish a cup of tea without her grabbing it or shake her hand without her thrusting your palm in the air. It was tiresome, but her crumpets and tea cakes more than made up for the small annoyances. Once in all the years she's heard talk of Aunt Ernestine's gift—mostly from her—did Augusta hear her say something she couldn't explain. She can recall it as if it were yesterday. She was counting bottles of Butterbeer for the wedding and Aunt Ernestine and Uncle Erwin were placing tiny bouquets into crystal vases for the tables. Aunt Ernestine groaned and Augusta turned to ask her if she'd had too much sausage stew at tea when she said, in a strange quavering voice, "And so it begins. The one who seeks immortality will fall, not once but twice. The one he chooses becomes the one he seeks. The one he casts aside will rise and the one and the one and the three will vanquish the seven." So, it hadn't been the sausage stew, but Aunt Ernestine had needed a stiff sherry after and Augusta had had one for good measure.
Minerva is the only one outside of the family she's ever told. And Minerva didn't tell anyone until a month ago when, for a reason she said she couldn't share, Minerva told Dumbledore, and here they are on the way to Morecambe with Severus and Amelia in tow—something she is more and more certain is no accident. Whatever it was, it gave her a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach.
“What if we can’t?” She asked.
“Can’t what?” Minerva said in the same tone you'd use for a child who'd woken from a nightmare.
Augusta realises she's not entirely sure what she means. Things just feel so heavy and uncertain right now. "What if we’re not enough?"
"I don’t think anyone’s ever accused you of that," Minerva says. She touches the back of Augusta's hand.
"I’m serious. What if we don’t succeed and we don’t bring back what Dumbledore needs?"
"I've never failed yet to carry out one of Dumbledore's requests and I don't intend to start now."
She hears laughter coming over the low hill behind them. She turns and sees Amelia and Severus, loaded down with bags of what she assumes to be flowers and herbs. The two of them settle next to the campfire ring and it flares to life when Amelia points her wand. They lean in close, chattering as they pull their treasures from the sacks.
"You see," Minerva says. "Just what Albus always says—what we need is all around us, in the people or the land or where we least expect it, if we'll just look."
Augusta turns over on her camp bed. It's not the most comfortable place she has ever slept, not by any stretch of the imagination. It's also not the worst—by just as long a stretch. Her sleeping bag is soft and warm and her hand dangles next to Minerva's, fingers brushing. She turns over again. There is no getting away from it. She's going to have to get up and go to the outhouse. She sighs and pulls on her wellies.
The cool night air brings her fully awake. The sky has cleared and the moon gives enough light for Augusta to see as she steps carefully over the rough ground. The loo that Minerva and Amelia conjured is a respectable distance from the tent, to give them all a little privacy.
She hears the sounds before she sees the shadows. She draws her wand and then it occurs to her that she didn't see Amelia in her bed or hear any sounds from Severus' alcove within the tent.
The sound is so soft she thinks it might be the breeze across the loch. Then she catches movement out of the corner of her eye.
Severus is leant against a tree, his back pressed to a tall, straight pine that's probably as old as Dumbledore. Amelia is in front of him, her robe hitched up about her thigh and her leg around Severus' waist. She grips his shoulders and her hips thrust against him.
Augusta freezes. She doesn't want to look and she can't look away. She wants to run and yet she can't for fear of being heard.
He groans, his mouth open, looking at the sky as if he's giving thanks for his good fortune. His gasps and groans speed up. Amelia pushes back, away from him, and Severus moans in protest. She spins them around, pressing her back to the tree, and she pulls him back to her. Augusta can see in her face the moment that Severus enters her again and hear from the sounds coming from both of them that it won't be long.
Amelia looks up and Augusta can't tell if she sees her not, but it's enough for her feet to come unfrozen. She scurries back to the tent.
Minerva is snoring softly. The peace of a good sleep takes years off her face. Back in the tent, in the quiet and still, Augusta is aware of the pulsing heat between her legs. She drops her robes. She pushes her camp cot next to Minerva's and pulls Minerva's blanket over her. She runs her hand over Minerva's ribs and the curve of her hip, resolutely ignoring that this midnight desire is the result of watching Severus and Amelia fucking against a tree.
Minerva stirs. "What is it?"
"Come here," Augusta says and Minerva turns to her. Augusta is wet and desperate to be touched. She kisses Minerva and sighs at the touch of their tongues.
Minerva must sense Augusta's urgency. She slides her hands between Augusta's legs and slips her finger into Augusta's folds. "So wet," she whispers. "So ready."
Minerva's words send sharp jolts of pleasure through Augusta's body. They never, ever, talk about sex in the light of day. Minerva is warm and loving in her very reserved way, but never dirty, except when she's touching Augusta and then these little gems spill from her lips as if she can't help it—at least that's what Augusta likes to think.
Minerva's finger circles her clit and slides down, dipping inside her, back and forth, until Augusta is trembling and biting her lip to keep from crying out loud.
"What do you want?" she asks Minerva, when she's able to breathe enough to speak again.
"Your mouth," Minerva says and Augusta can almost feel Minerva's cheeks heating at admitting this.
"Yes," she murmurs and kisses her way down Minerva's body. And then she kisses her again and again until Minerva's soft thighs clamp around her head.
"What brought this on?" Minerva asks, moments later, her arms loosely wrapped around Augusta. "Not that I'm complaining."
Augusta hesitates, not sure if she can say it aloud. "We're alone for the first time on this trip," is what she settles on.
Minerva kisses her on the forehead. "I saw them tiptoeing out together."
"What is Amelia thinking?" Augusta asks—wanting very much to steer this conversation away from the effect seeing them had on her.
"Well, I'm not inclined to judge. There's not enough kindness in the world at the moment."
"She was being more than kind," Augusta says.
"You presume she didn't get anything out of it," Minerva says.
"Go to sleep," Augusta says. She can feel her cheeks burning.
"And you accuse me of being the prudish one," Minerva says fondly. "Good night, dear Augusta. Do try to dream sweet dreams.
She will, she thinks. Frank, Alice, and Neville are safe at home. Minerva's next to her. There's evil in the world, but there always is, and now at least, they know what it is. And better yet, she and her family can do something to help.
"These are the best sausages I have ever had," Amelia says. She bites into the hot, smoky sausage. Severus watches her.
"Hunger's the best sauce," says Minerva. "And eating outdoors over a fire doesn't hurt."
Augusta looks at the rich, savoury meat and her stomach turns a little. She never was one for a big meal in the morning. She's just not hungry. She's shaken some of the malaise she's felt of late, but it's lingering and she's more than ready to move on.
"You're looking a bit down in the mouth," Amelia says. "Hang on. I've just the thing." She roots about in one of the satchels from Severus and her hillside wanderings and produces a handful of leaves. "Stick this in your underarm."
"I beg your pardon," Augusta says as Minerva laughs and even Severus smiles.
"It's St. John's Wort. It's all over these hills. Haven't you heard of the young boy who was afraid to tend his sheep?" Amelia continues.
"I've so often felt that you're speaking another language since we embarked on this journey," Augusta says.
Amelia gestures at Severus. He looks at her fondly and says, "Saint Columba walked the hills, looking for likely converts. You surely know that. What many don't know is that he was a potions and herbology expert. He came across a young sheepherder who was afraid to be out alone. He spoke with the boy and gave him a packet of St. John's Wort and instructed him to hold it under his arm, the underarm being an area where medicinal herbs can be absorbed quickly."
"Brilliant," Amelia says, patting Severus on the shoulder. "There is certainly call for something to help with fear and anxiety these days."
"I prefer mine in a glass," Augusta says.
"Oh look," says Minerva, not looking at anything at all. "It's nearly time for our Portkey."
The Portkey lands them just on the outskirts of the Wizarding village, in Bessymire Wood. Augusta breathes and the scents of her childhood fill her senses. The perfume of elderflowers and the sound of the breeze through silver birches take her back. She touches Minerva's arm to steady herself. It has been so very long.
"Where are we, then?" Amelia asks.
"Not far," Augusta says. "It's a bit of a walk, but it's better than trying to Apparate close in. There's Muggle houses and such all about now."
"Never mind the walk," Severus says. He looks at Amelia and he looks almost pleasant for a moment. "Look at this." He walks off the path and Amelia follows. He bends over and comes up with a handful of ferny-looking plants with small pink flowers. "Stinky Bob," he proclaims with a delight that makes Augusta imagine him as a ten-year-old.
"That's not polite," Amelia says, laughing, and Augusta doesn't bother voicing that, once again, she has no idea what they're talking about.
"If we've long to walk in these woods, we'll be pleased we've found it when the midges come out," Severus says. "Crush it and rub it on your skin. It's also excellent for healing cuts and soothing nettle burns."
"I'm not putting anything called 'Stinky Bob' on my skin, midges and nettles or not," Augusta says.
"An additional use for Herb Robert, as it's called, is treatment of varicose veins," Severus says in an unpleasant drawl, looking at her. "The smell is unfortunate, though."
"Shall we get to our destination?" Minerva asks loudly.
It's not as long a walk as Augusta remembers and their stroll is blissfully free of midges, thankfully minimizing the threat of Stinky Bob. The red stone path up to Aunt Ernestine's cottage is lined with nasturtiums. The window boxes are a riot of colourful geraniums. She must be well and Augusta finds herself looking forward to seeing her more with every step.
Minerva has to duck to step through the green cottage door. Augusta smiles to see Minerva in her Aunt’s house, stepping onto the threadbare, but clean and elegant carpet in the entrance.
"Aunt Ernestine," she calls out. "I've arrived and I've a few friends."
The door from the kitchen flies open and a tiny, white-haired woman in a brown dress with a flowered apron bustles through. "I had a letter," she says, producing one that looks much like the one Severus had on their first day, from her apron pocket. "I know who you all are and why you’re here."
Augusta is struck speechless for a moment—all she can think is that Ernestine is a step ahead of her, then. "Oh, good. That's good," is what she manages.
"Well, I suppose you're all wanting your tea," Aunt Ernestine says.
Augusta nearly bursts out laughing when she sees the stunned faces of her traveling companions. She'd forgotten that Aunt Ernestine could have that effect.
"Come along, come along," she says in a way that absolutely brooks no argument.
The table is set with a flowered cloth and lovely bone china that's probably two or three generations old. Floury rolls, sliced tomato, cheeses, pickles, and the ultimate in local comfort food, potted shrimp and toast, cover the table.
"Thank you so very much," Minerva says, tucking in. "This all looks lovely. You didn't have to go to the bother."
"I knew you were coming. It's tea time. Of course I did," she says. "Forgot the butter." She leaps up before Augusta can offer to get it for her.
"I've never had potted shrimp," says Amelia, reaching for a slice of toast. She serves herself some of the buttery shrimp and the aroma of mace and pepper make Augusta's mouth water. She hated these as a child. She can't wait to have some now.
"How long do you think these have been potted," Severus asks suspiciously.
"Aunt Ernestine puts up a batch every week, so they'll have been swimming in the bay on the weekend with no notion they'd be on the tea table tonight," Augusta says, silently daring him to insult her Aunt's hospitality.
"And last weekend, none of us knew we'd be at this table, either," Minerva says.
"Puts things into perspective, doesn't it," says Amelia.
Severus lifts some shrimp on a butter knife up to his nose and gives them a sniff. "If the perspective is that we could all be dead in a week, yes it does."
"I prefer the perspective that, even in difficult times, pleasant surprises aren't to be taken for granted," Minerva says, taking a bite of the shrimp and toast.
"Your optimism makes my head hurt," Severus mutters.
"I'm sorry for your discomfort," Minerva says, curtly, "But I don't think it's my optimism that's your problem."
"Then there's the perspective that none of you are as dead at the shrimp," Aunt Ernestine says. She's back from the kitchen, carrying a tray with butter and more toast and pots of shrimp. "You're eating them, and not the other way about."
"Here, here," says Amelia, standing to help Aunt Ernestine with the tray she's carrying. "Please sit and eat with us."
"I had my tea hours ago, dearie," Ernestine says. "I'm away to bed. I'm old. Augusta, you do the washing up and, in the morning, we'll see if we can't sort out what this Dumbledore thinks I know. If we all see the morning, that is." With that, she turns and disappears down the hallway.
A moment more of silence later, they hear her feet on the stairs.
"That wasn't a prophecy, was it?" Amelia asks.
Augusta's eyes pop open and she snaps awake. She holds her breath and listens for whatever woke her. Minerva is asleep next to her. She hears a footstep on the landing and she swings her feet to the floor, gripping her wand.
Amelia is in the doorway. She holds a finger to her lips and points with her wand in the direction of Aunt Ernestine's room.
"Stay here," Amelia whispers and moves down the hall.
"What is it?" Minerva asks. She's up and out of bed, pulling on her dressing gown and grabbing her wand.
"A noise. There was a noise. I think. Amelia's on it."
Minerva shakes her head and steps into the hallway. Augusta sighs and follows her. There wasn't really ever any question, but for one second she thought that perhaps they could let the Auror check it out.
Another figure steps out of the guest room where Amelia is sleeping and Severus steps soundlessly after Amelia.
"Get out of my house, ruffians," Aunt Ernestine's reedy voice screeches from behind the door.
Amelia is there and she kicks open the bedroom door. There's a flash of red light and one of green and Minerva bellows a shield charm and fairly dives into the bedroom after Amelia. Severus sprints and so does Augusta and they arrive at the same time.
There are shadows in the room, shadows looming over her tiny aunt. Aunt Ernestine has her wand drawn and she fires a hex. In the light from the hallway, Augusta sees that the shadows are people in hooded cloaks.
The figure she thought was Severus is cloaked as well and she turns on him as he approaches her aunt. There's a flash of light and she ducks, sending a shield charm before she realises she's opened her mouth to cast it. Minerva and Amelia have four people cornered, duelling two each. Someone runs by her and she searches for Ernestine.
"Get her out," Severus' voice, the hooded figure, hisses, thrusting Aunt Ernestine in her flowered dressing gown at Augusta. He looks terrified and trapped and Augusta wonders for a moment who needs rescuing.
Severus turns and the figure—Augusta thinks it's a man—in front of him drops like a sack of potatoes. She gathers up the protesting Ernestine and runs, half carrying her, to the back garden, where she wraps her in her arms. She feels so tiny and frail.
"What on earth were they after," Aunt Ernestine asks.
"You," Augusta says. Dumbledore must have been right.
She Apparates them to the abandoned cinema where she used to sneak with her friends when she was a teenager. No one will look for them here. She sinks into the musty old seat and hopes that there are still people to look for them tomorrow.
When Augusta was a girl, the pier in summer was crowded with people in light summer robes, licking ice creams, and forgetting the day-to-day troubles at home. It was always a bit odd to live in a place where other people came for holiday.
Not many people come anymore and the paint on the pier is peeling. The ice cream shop is only open on weekends.
It's a beautiful evening, with a cool breeze off the sea and more stars than she can count. She and Aunt Ernestine had waited until morning before going back to the cottage. Amelia's young Aurors, the ones she'd supposedly come to check on, were stationed on the bench in front of the cottage, pretending to admire the scenery. Minerva grabbed her in a tight hug and scolded that she'd been five minutes from sending out a search party. The decision was made, then, that Aunt Ernestine would be coming back with them. Arabella Figg has a spare room. It's the safest plan. Frank and Alice are too high profile and they've the baby. Augusta is too obvious. It is the most sensible plan, but Augusta isn't confident that Arabella's cats won't end up in a pot with butter, mace, and gentleman's relish.
"What are you doing out here at this time of night?" Minerva asks softly. She's right behind Augusta, her presence comforting and solid.
"It's not that late," Augusta says. "On a night like this, when I was a girl, there would have been sweethearts making the most of the moonlight all along here."
"Well, they've all gone to the Canary Islands instead."
"I keep finding myself thinking that nothing will ever be right again," Augusta says. A breeze ruffles through her hair.
"I tend to agree that Morecambe will never be the seaside resort it once was."
"That is not what I mean, and you know it," Augusta says.
"Someone has to lighten the mood a bit on the lovely evening." Minerva slings her arm around Augusta's shoulders and she is both touched and startled by this unusual, casual affection.
"How did it get this bad?" Augusta looks at Minerva, hoping she will say something to make it make sense. She's tired and afraid, and she knows she needs to sleep, but she can't stop thinking about Frank and Alice facing what she just did every day in their work. She can't stop thinking about tiny Neville in her brave son's arms and what they are leaving him if they don't succeed.
"I don't think anyone knew how bad it was until recently. I gather that Dumbledore thinks we still don't know the extent."
"That wasn't very cheering."
"Cheering isn't what we need. Determination and loyalty is. Dumbledore sent us here for a reason—that much is clear."
"You spoke to him," Augusta says. The sea breeze has loosed a few wisps of Minerva's hair from its tight bun. "What does he think is so important about what my batty old aunt had to say?"
"He clearly thinks there's something," Minerva says. "Something that might help, I daresay."
"I've always thought her gift was a load of malarkey," Augusta sighs. She wishes now that it was. She's fond of the old girl, as abrasive as she is.
"Perhaps Dumbledore knows something you don't."
"I reckon that's a safe bet."
"Death Eaters showing up in the dead of night in Morecambe tears it, you must admit," Minerva says, gently. "Like it or not, she's important in whatever's to come."
"I'd hoped there were after Severus. Didn't you say he used to be one of them?" Augusta says and she regrets it almost immediately. She would at least understand why they were after him, but she finds she doesn't actually wish him dead.
"He hung about with some that went bad at school. I reckon that's why he kept his head covered. Dumbledore trusts him. I'm not sure why, but I trust Albus," Minerva says and then she laughs softly. "Amelia seems to as well, and I'm glad they've taken some companionship where they found it. Building friendships is the most important way to build allies and there was never a better time for that."
"You sound like Dumbledore," Augusta says. She wraps her arm around Minerva's waist. "I wish I had as much faith in Dumbledore as you do."
"You're going to have to find it." Minerva presses a kiss to the top of her head.
She's tired and afraid, but Minerva's arms are around her. Their odd little band of comrades is close to achieving the goal of this sojourn, all in one piece for now. The same stars she counted as a girl twinkle in the velvety sky, and now she's sharing those with Minerva. It's not quite hope, but it's close to it.
"I have faith in you," Augusta says. That's enough for now. It has to be.